Posted by: nancycurteman | March 5, 2018

8 Questions Readers Ask About Lysi Weston

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Lysi Weston is the main character in my Lysi Weston Mystery Series. When I do book events, I often get repeat questions about her. I wanted to share some of the most frequently asked questions in an interesting format so I decided to allow Weston to respond to the questions herself in a one-on-one interview. So here goes:

  • What is your job? I present seminars to corporate managers on how to identify and eliminate sexual harassment in the work place.
  • Do you live in an apartment or house? I live in a condominium in San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill neighborhood. I could never afford to buy it now. Homes are just too expensive in San Francisco. My parents purchased it in 1979 when I went away to college. I inherited it.
  • Are you married? I married right out of college. When my husband became an alcoholic, I divorced him. I stayed single for many years. I recently remarried a wonderful man I met in Australia. We spend six months of the year in San Francisco and six months in Alice Springs, Australia on his sheep station.
  • How do you stay so fit? Thank you. I believe in exercise. I think it enables you to do everything else in your life. I ride a stationary bike and walk two miles five days a week. I work out at a fitness center three days a week. I eat lots of salad and vegetables. I have a glass of wine every evening to relax. I call it my “wine down” time.
  • Tell us about your best friend. My best friend is Grace Wright. She is also my business colleague. A college graduate, she was born and raised in Harlem. Her mother is Hispanic and her father is African American. Grace is almost my exact opposite. I’m understated, Grace is flamboyant. I’m a planner, Grace is an improviser. I’m conservative, Grace is audacious. We complement each other.
  • Are you a dog or a cat person? In general I’d say I’m an animal person. I have a German shepherd I adore. She’s a house dog but she loves to take long walks up Telegraph Hill.
  • Do you have any bad habits? My worst bad habit is amateur sleuthing. I just can’t resist sticking my nose into a murder investigation. Even worse, I involve Grace and my husband who is a retired homicide detective. I’m working on myself.
  • Do you have any adventures planned? I do. Grace and I will do a corporate seminar in Dublin Ireland in a few months. I will also have the opportunity to meet some of my Irish cousins.

That concludes the interview with Lysi Weston. She will be going to Ireland in my next mystery novel. Watch for it in about 8 months.

Posted by: nancycurteman | February 21, 2018

How to Get a Chapter Just Right

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One of the most frustrating things writers can experience is the inability to get a chapter just right. We try everything—revising setting, character descriptions and conflict, changing sentences, adding and removing paragraphs, rewriting the chapter. We even consider tossing out the whole chapter. But often we can’t because it’s integral to the plot so we have to labor through it. The problem is how to get the chapter right. Translation: how to get the chapter up to the level of perfection we want.

Before we explore some strategies that might help us get the chapter right, we should remember two old sayings: A writer who thinks his work is perfect is usually a bad writer and Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. With that in mind, here are some thoughts on how to get the chapter just right if not perfect.

  • Read your chapter aloud. This is a great way to diagnose problems. Maybe your rhythm is off or your character is acting or speaking out of character.
  • Write a synopsis of your chapter. This will allow you to see any elements in your scenes that slow the plot pace.
  • Critique groups help. Take your chapter to your group and ask them for ideas. Others can see what you don’t see.
  • Write mentally. Take a walk and add ideas and changes to your chapter in your mental computer.
  • Write the next chapter. Leave the troublesome chapter and keep going. Choose a new chapter to work on. Return to the problem chapter later.
  • Pause and rethink. Take a couple of days away from your chapter to recharge.
  • Calm your Inner Critic. Chances are your chapter is not as bad as you think. Remind your Inner Critic that you will fix problems in rewrites.

These are some strategies for getting the chapter just right. If you have some ideas I’d love it if you would share them with my readers.


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Posted by: nancycurteman | January 31, 2018

6 Unusual San Francisco Sights

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If you are a visitor to San Francisco it is of course essential to visit the world famous sights such as Fisherman’s Wharf, China Town, Golden Gate Park, North Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge. However, it is also important for you to try to make time to see some of San Francisco’s more unusual sights. Here are six really different sights you might consider:

•The Gregangelo Museum

You enter this unique museum at 225 San Leandro Way through a mosaic entryway with tiles arranged in shades of blues and blacks that create a swirling galaxy. The psychedelic world of Gregangelo consists of unusual rooms with titles like Solstice, Eclipse, Dawn, and Midnight Hall, each name descriptive of the room’s design theme. This is not a typical no-touch museum, as guests are encouraged to touch, feel and interact with the pieces in each room. For $150 per person you can experience this unforgettable museum.

• Brick Circles of San Francisco

How about a freebie? While walking around the city, take note of random brick circles at various intersections. You may wonder what they might be. Well, they are cisterns. Underneath each of these circles is buried a giant tank of water stored as a backup water source in case the city’s water system is ever rendered useless. Look for fire hydrants placed near each cistern.

• Musée Mécanique

At Pier 45 is located the Musée Mécanique, one of the world’s largest privately own collection of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines. In short, an old time penny arcade with over 200 gaming machines still in operation. You could spend a all day in the Musée Mécanique and never run out of games.

• Yoda Fountain

For those of you who are Star Wars addicts you can have your photo taken with a statue of Yoda in the Presidio located on B Courtyard, 1 Letterman Drive just outside the Digital Arts Center. After your photo you can visit the Center and discover a collection of Star War’s icons.

• Clarion Alley

Clarion Alley located in the Mission between 17th and 18th street connecting Valencia and Mission is a little bit of San Francisco culture presented in over 700 colorful murals. Every wall including the alley floor is covered with murals depicting themes of social, economic and environmental justice.

• Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze

This maze in housed in a building on Pier 39. It is a dungeon of columns and mirrors, lit by black light and flashing neon with a background of rave music. The SF Weekly stated that this Mirror Maze is possibly the most psychedelic place one can legally reach within the city limits.” This labyrinth of mirrors will make you lose track of where you are.

So consider taking the path less travelled and visit some of San Francisco’s unusual sights.


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Posted by: nancycurteman | January 20, 2018

“Murder Lurks in the Fog” Ranked #3 in National Readers Poll

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I am delighted to announce that my 6th novel, “Murder Lurks in the Fog,” ranked #3 in the 2017 Preditors  & Editors Readers’ Poll.

“Murder Lurks in the Fog” joins “Murder Casts a Spell” (ranked #1) and “Murder Down Under” (ranked #5) as Readers Poll winners.

Thanks  so much to all my readers who took the time to vote for my novel.

You can find all my mysteries on Amazon page.

Posted by: nancycurteman | January 12, 2018

First Drafts are Fun

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First drafts are fun because when you write them you can let your imagination run wild. You can develop a story with no constraints. There is no pressure for perfection. Just free write. Begin your story wherever you choose—beginning, middle, end.

Your first draft can be a loose collection of ideas. Along the way you will discover characters, scenes and settings. Your first draft is where you explore ideas and writing styles, meander, make all kinds of mistakes and most important enjoy “living” your story.

While first drafts are fun, they are usually pretty awful—full of spelling and grammar errors, poor pacing, inconsistencies, undeveloped characters. That said, first drafts are not meant to be perfect. Perfection comes with second, third and fourth drafts.

Here are a few thoughts about first drafts:

  • Finish them. Don’t labor over the first sentence forever.
  • Don’t worry about bad writing. You will perfect it later.
  • You don’t need to know every inch of your plot.
  • Do some preliminary research but not in-depth.
  • Understand that in future drafts you may add or change characters, plot events, settings and even beginnings and endings.
  • Think of your first draft as a skeleton that you will flesh out later.
  • A completed first draft will make it easier for you make improvements in later rewrites.
  • Finally, no one need ever see your embarrassing first draft.

The important thing to remember about writing a first draft as bad as it may be, is that without it there is no story. First drafts are about getting the story down on paper.


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Posted by: nancycurteman | December 29, 2017

Greetings to all my Readers,

Just want to let you know that my sixth novel, “Murder Lurks in the Fog,” has been nominated as best mystery novel of 2017 in the Preditors and Editors Readers’ Poll. I’d love it if you would consider voting for me. Simply go  to this site and follow voting instructions.

Voting closes on January 14th.

Thank you in advance,

Nancy Curteman


Posted by: nancycurteman | December 11, 2017

How to Conquer Writers’ Block

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Most authors will have to search out ways to conquer writers’ block at some time in their professional career. Writers’ block can occur at any time during the creation of a writing piece. It can occur before you begin a novel or at the beginning of a new chapter or even while you’re well into the story and trying to tie up threads you’ve created.

Causes of writers’ block can vary. Two of the most common reasons are insisting on a perfect draft—anything from laboring over a chapter or a scene or sentence or even seeking the perfect word can lead to frustration and writers’ block. The second major cause is waiting for inspiration. This passive activity rarely succeeds. The fact is your muse usually will not show up unless you engage in writing.

There are ways to combat writers’ block. Here are a few tried and true strategies that have worked for authors:

  • Write. Just hit the keyboard and type anything that comes to mind. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. In short, no editing. You may set goals if you like such as 200 words or 3 pages or five minutes. That’s up to you. The important thing is to get words on the screen.
  • Brainstorm. Make lists of words. If you have a topic, choose words that relate to it. Do not outline while brainstorming. Simply let your mind run rampant through your brain, gathering any words that tickle your fancy. By the way, save your list of words. You may use some of them later.
  • Research. This is one of my favorite writers’ block busters. It’s very effective if you know your topic or already have an outline of your plot. But even if you don’t it will stimulate your interest and creativity. I love it because I always stumble on interesting items. Often I can work the new items into my story.
  • Where to begin. This decision is often not well considered. You may automatically decide to start with the first line on the first page of the first chapter. If you’re blocked, get out of that rut. Launch your story wherever you like. Some authors write the end of their story first. Choose a chapter or a scene that interests you and dive right in. You’ll find that the beginning will come more easily after you stop pounding on it as if it were a brick wall. And you don’t have to complete a scene or chapter before you move on. You can attack it again in your rewrites.
  • Go for a walk. As you walk, let your mind wander through your scene or chapter allowing interruptions to gaze at a flower or the sky or whatever. No pressure. I do a lot of my writing mentally as I walk because ideas pop into my mind seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Read a book. You can get inspired and learn writing strategies from reading good authors just as artists learn painting techniques from observing great paintings.
  • Accept your sloppy first draft. Embrace your first draft for what it is—a skeleton. Just write as fast as you can to finish the novel. You’ll flesh it out when you edit and rewrite. Remember, writing is really rewriting.
  • Join a critique group. A critique group not only helps you improve your writing, it also forces you to complete writing pieces on a regular basis to share with the members.

I’ve listed several strategies authors have used to conquer writers’ block. Perhaps you have some strategies that have worked for you. Please consider sharing them with my followers.

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Posted by: nancycurteman | November 28, 2017

Backstory Should Move a Plot Forward, Not Backward

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As authors, we know backstory is essential to good characterization. We also know we need to keep our stories moving toward a climax and solution. Managing these two goals is sometimes difficult. Backstory should move our novel plots forward, not backward. This seems a bit like an oxymoron, but it can be done. As authors we need to consider the following:

What is backstory? Backstory relates to events that have happened before the novel begins.

Why is backstory necessary? Backstory is necessary to explain why a character has a specific motivation or mindset. Backstory can strengthen a reader’s emotional connection with a character. It can establish setting as well.

How do we know when we need to insert backstory into our novel and how much? If it’s essential to our plot, we need it. Insert no more backstory than is absolutely necessary to make characters and plot understandable.

How can we unobtrusively insert backstory into our story?
• Write backstory without leaving a novel’s present time.
• Backstory must always be related to the action in the scene.
• Make sure it exerts an active influence on characters and plot. If a character is terrified of heights, don’t write a backstory about her favorite toy.
• Keep backstory inserts as short as possible.
• Resist hopping back and forth between the past and the present.
• Sneak backstory in as character memory, overheard conversations, chance encounters, old photos or letters, scents, sights and tastes. Think about experiences that bring back past memories.
• Use a person or attitude to create a reason for adding backstory.
• Use some flashbacks and character musings in which to couch backstory.
• Use dialogue rather than narration when possible.
• Spread backstory throughout the novel. Don’t dump it all into the first chapter. Reveal backstory only at the time that best serves the story.

By using their natural creativity, authors can use backstory to move novel plots forward, not backward.

More Tips:

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Posted by: nancycurteman | November 11, 2017

How to End a Chapter in a Mystery Novel

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The end of a chapter in a mystery novel is as critical as the beginning of a chapter. It’s important to make the end of the chapter as enticing as the chapter’s opening lines. The beginning lines of a chapter are meant to lure readers to read further in the chapter. The lines at the end of the chapter are meant to lure the reader into future chapters.

The end of a chapter has double duty. It needs to provide some closure on an event previously developed in the story or in the chapter while at the same time it must raise reader tension about the next challenging event to follow. Chapter endings should tie together story elements from previous chapters.
They also act as transitions between what has happened in the chapter and what may happen in the next chapter. There are many ways to end chapters that will entice readers’ to avidly continue reading. Consider some of these kinds of chapter endings:

  • End your chapter in the heart of the action.
    • Cliffhangers are terrific enders in mystery novels.
    • End with hooks that pull readers into the next chapter.
    • Hold your readers’ interest with unexpected twists in those last lines.
    • Use anticipation and fear to end your chapter.
    • Introduce new problems or a new character.
    • Reveal something surprising about a character’s personality or motives.
    • Introduce a new conflict or reveal something that changes readers’ opinion about a character.
    • Have your character grapple with what he will do about a coming conflict.
    • Reveal a devastating secret.
    • End with a question.

No matter what kind of chapter ending you choose, the last lines must hint of something to come without giving it away.

More tips:

How to End a Mystery Novel
How to Write Endings for Mystery Novels
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Posted by: nancycurteman | October 29, 2017

How to Increase Reviews of Your Novel

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In general, authors seek as many book reviews as possible. The jury is still out on the actual impact of book reviews on sales. Some reader polls have indicated that only a small percentage of shoppers in brick and mortar stores look first at reviews before purchasing a book. They first check the cover and then turn to the back of the book to learn about content. After that they may check reviews.

If your book is selling on line, Amazon places more emphasis on reviews that include one to five-star ratings. However, Amazon has had issues with untrustworthy book reviews. Some authors pay third parties to write reviews which may or may not be legitimate.

In any event, it is probably a good idea to know how to increase reviews of your novel not just to boost sales, but to learn from the honest feedback provided by readers and peers. Honest reviews can help you grow as a writer. Here are some ways to increase reviews of your novel.

  • Use social media. Check out book blogger sites. These sites are usually maintained by avid readers who will provide good feedback. If they review your book, provide a link to their sites from your own site. Consider blog tours and online author interviews.
  • Use your website or blog site to encourage reviews. Let your readers know how much you appreciate reviews and how important they are. Make it easy for them to do a review by providing some basic “how to” instructions and a by adding a link to your sale page.
  • Solicit and accept speaking engagements, library visits, media events. Offer to present a class in your local community college. Offer free ebooks to the first five people who will do a review.
  • Target top reviewers on Amazon. Go to the author pages of writers in your genre. Click on reviews of their books to find the reviewer’s Amazon profile. Look for contact info and send the reviewer a query noting that you read some of their reviews and really enjoyed them. Ask if they would consider reviewing one of your novels.

Here are a couple of caveats. Never trade reviews and don’t pay for customer reviews. Both are against Amazon’s terms of service and could get you kicked off the site.

Book reviews are certainly useful. It is worth the effort to try my suggestions for increasing reviews of your novels.  Here are some examples of reviews I’ve received (scroll down to product details). Please share any other ideas you might have come across.


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