Posted by: nancycurteman | August 18, 2018

3 Research Methods for Novelists

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Research is an essential skill that authors need to master whether they write nonfiction or fiction. There are three basic research methods for novelists, interviews, reading/internet and visiting locations.

In my case, I wanted to add a Muslim female character to one of my stories. I needed to gain an understanding of the customary dress of Muslim women. I will share my research as a way of demonstrating how I used the three research methods.

Interviews. I have a neighbor who is Muslim so I shared my objective with her and asked her the questions I had prepared ahead of time.

Question: Why do Muslim women wear what they wear?
Answer: In the Qur’an, Allah tells believers they should be modest and wear their veils. For many women a hijab is a visible sign of their faith. She added there are other advantages to their mode of dress including not being judged for beauty, being known as a Muslim and comfort in the loose, flowing clothing.

Question: Do women have to wear traditional clothing?
Answer: No. For example, women choose to wear the hijab for many different reasons. Some choose not to wear traditional clothing at all. In some communities men wear traditional clothing.

Question: Do men insist that women wear traditional clothing?
Answer: Absolutely not. The only cases in which women are forced to dress traditionally would be in very conservative communities and countries.

Visit a place. In my case, I couldn’t visit a Muslim country although that would have been ideal. In the country or location, you encounter all the sensory experiences: sights, sounds, smells, touching. The next best thing for me was to watch videos or documentaries about the place on television and on the internet.

Read/Internet. Libraries and the internet are great resources with one caveat: Confirm any information you learn by consulting other sources. I learned valuable information using this research strategy. I gained an understanding of some of the various types of traditional clothing:

Hijab-a veil that consists of one or two scarves that cover the head and neck.

Jihab-a robe or coat that covers the whole body except the head and hands.

Burqa-a full body veil. The wearer’s entire face and body are covered, and she sees through a mesh screen over the eyes.

Niqab-covers the entire body, head and face but an opening is left for the eyes.

Many modern Muslim women choose not to wear traditional clothing although some do. It is their choice.

Using the 3 research methods for novelists, I’ve gathered a lot of information I can use to round out my character.

More Tips:

How to Open a Mystery Novel

Questions to ask before adding details to your Mystery Novel 

6 Ways to Avoid “Information Dumps” in a Mystery Novel

Posted by: nancycurteman | July 31, 2018

3 Ways to Ignite Reader Emotions

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Readers want to cry, laugh, fear, rage, and worry with a novel’s character. Fiction is not real, but emotions must be. It’s the author’s job to induce emotions in readers, to enable them to feel character emotions right along with the hero and heroine.  There are three basic ways to ignite reader emotions: description, adjusting elements of writing and interior dialog. Note none of these methods include simply stating the character is mad, sad, happy, angry. The old rule applies, “Show, don’t tell.”

Description. Describe the impact the emotion is having on the character’s body—weak knees, cold hands, trembling, sweating, swallowing, clenched teeth, blushing etc. These are a few examples to illustrate the physical impact of given emotions on characters.

Adjusting The Elements of Writing.  Slow pacingin emotional scenes such as fear of imminent danger or a death scene or romantic interlude. Darken settingwhen the mood is fearful or sad, brighten setting when the mood is joyful. A character’stone(the viewpoint character’s attitude) should be reflected in his actions and words. For example, if he is desperate, show it in his actions and in what he says. Make thecharactersympathetic so the reader can identify with her hopes, joys, sorrows and needs.

Internal Dialogue.This is one of the most effective strategies for invoking reader emotions because it can bare the character’s soul. Internal dialogue lets the reader in on the character’s deepest, most worrisome thoughts and memories that describe why he or she is feeling a given emotion—she hated her stepfather and this man acts just like him. Her friend died in a car accident on a dark rainy night and now she’s terrified of driving on stormy nights. Why did he insist on that last scotch? He knows he’s driving erratically. Can he make it home before a cop pulls him over?

All three of these strategies, description, adjustment of the elements of writing and internal dialogue are essential to igniting reader emotions


More Tips:

How to Increase Tension Through Character Inner Conflict
How to Use Character Inner Feelings to Drive Story Action
How Unconscious Motivations Drive Character Behavior in a Mystery Novel

Posted by: nancycurteman | July 12, 2018

Your Favorite Lysi Weston Novel

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Now that I’ve completed six Lysi Weston mysteries and am beginning my seventh, I’d like to find out  which book you enjoyed the most. In each novel I introduced new characters along with the ones that are permanent in the series. Learning which novel is your favorite will give me some insight into how you feel about each new character and whether I should continue their appearance in future novels.

I realize how precious your time is but I hope you can spare a moment to complete this poll. Of course your vote will remain completely anonymous. However, if you wish to add a comment you can do so in the comment section below the blog post. The poll results will show on my blog.

Thank you for taking a moment to complete my poll.

Posted by: nancycurteman | June 23, 2018

Craicntours, An Outstanding Tour Company

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During our recent visit to Northern Ireland I discovered Craicntours, one of the best tour companies I’ve ever used. As an author, I had some very unique needs relating to the setting for my next mystery novel that will take place in County Antrim. I shared with John Robbin, the owner of Craicntours, that my primary needs consisted of research but that I also wanted to visit the popular sites in the beautiful Glens of Antrim.

John designed a two-day tour that exceeded my expectations. He not only included the lovely sites while providing an in-depth history and description of the culture and traditions of the region, but he also introduced me to many interesting people, some of whom I will base characters in my novel. In fact, I already have a character in mind who will be based on John.

One highlight of the trip was a visit to a local police station. John arranged an interview with two detectives who took time out of their busy schedules to show me around the station and explain procedures used to investigate serious crimes. I mention this because it shows the extent to which John Robbin will go to meet the desires of his customers.

Seeing the Glens of Antrim and hearing about them from John left me with a lasting memory of a great experience. I wholeheartedly recommend Craicntours to travelers in the Glens area. I assure you that you will have an unforgettable experience.

T. +44 (0)77 8511 4698


28A Glassmullan Road,
County Antrim.
BT44 0QZ

More Tips:

Northern Ireland’s Treasure: The Glens of Antrim

The Tale of Cushendun’s Famous Goat

Posted by: nancycurteman | May 23, 2018

The Tale of Cushendun’s Famous Goat

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The lovely little village of Cushendun, situated on the river Dun in the heart of the Glens of Antrim in Northern Ireland, does indeed have a famous goat. In fact, in 2002 Cushendun, a village renowned for its distinctive architecture and unspoiled charm, even erected a statue to celebrate their goat. One wonders how a goat managed to find a place in the hearts of the people of this village, so rich in tradition.

Cushendun village was designed for Ronald McNeill, Baron Cushendun, the Conservative MP and author. It was designed in the style of a Cornish village to please his Cornish wife, Maud. There is even a row of quaint whitewashed cottages called Maud’s Cottages. Nothing to do with goats.

Mary McBrides Pub, one of the smallest in Ireland, entertains tourists with music during the summer months. The Corner House Tea Room boasts good homemade Irish food. Goats are not permitted.

The nearby caves of Cushendun have been used as the backdrop in the series Game of Thrones, a popular television series. Are there goats in the series?

Hurling, an Irish stick-and-ball team sport, played by men was so popular in Cushendun that they even had a junior hurling club.  Not to be outdone, women played camogie, a team sport identical to hurling. No goats involved in the game.

Cushendun, with its sheltered harbor at the mouth of the River Dun and its proximity to The Mull of Kintyre in Scotland only 15 miles away across the North Channel, has been protected by the National Trust since 1954 and was designated a Conservation area in 1980.

But what of the goat? Well, Johann, the goat, was a feature of the Cushendun harbor area for many years, grazing the riverbank and extending friendly greetings to visitors. Sadly, Johann had to be culled after the 2001 Hoof and Mouth disease disaster that struck Northern Ireland. As a tribute to the cherished goat, artist Deborah Brown created a sculpture in his likeness. I’m told that a goat named Miriam carried on Johann’s legacy in the shadow of his sculpture.

Of course we wish Goat Miriam a long life but I’m sure the tale of Cushendun’s famous goat will not end with her.



More about the Irish

Taste a Bit of Ireland in San Francisco

Johnny Foley’s Irish House

Waterford, Ireland’s Oldest City

Posted by: nancycurteman | May 11, 2018

Northern Ireland’s Treasure: The Glens of Antrim

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Northern Ireland’s treasure, the Glens of Antrim, is a region of County Antrim located on the north coast of the Emerald Isle. The Glens comprise nine valleys that were carved out by receding glaciers during the Ice Age. They stretch over some 80km of shoreline, encompassing grasslands, forests, peat bogs, mountain uplands, churches, cottages and castles. Many small farms have created a patchwork of hedgerows and dry stone walls.

Evidence indicates that humans inhabited the region as early as the Neolithic period. These people left behind megalithic tombs, stone tools, pottery, and arrowheads.

Early on, the Glens had close associations with Scotland. At least from the 5thcentury they were part of the ancient sea kingdom of Dalriada that extended on both sides of the North Channel and included the northern part of the present County Antrim. The Scottish influence is still evident in place-names, music, language and dance.

From the mid-13thcentury the Lordship of the Glens belonged to the Scoto-Irish Norman Bissett family. In the mid-16thcentury it came under the ownership of the MacDonnells of Antrim. You can visit Glenarm Castle in Glenarm, the home of the Antrim McDonnells for over 400 years

Today the Glens attract tourists from all over. They may seek a restful stay in a beautiful coastal village like Cushendun, camping in Glenariff Forest Park with its famous waterfall, or visits to some of the areas steeped in folklore such as Glentaisie where they’ll learn about the Children of Lir who were turned into swans until released from their enchantment by the knell of a Christian bell. In addition, several festivals attract visitors during the summer.

The beauty of the Glens of Antrim is indeed the reason the area is considered Northern Ireland’s treasure.

More Travel Tips:

Durty Nelly’s Pub

Johnny Foley’s Irish House

Waterford, Ireland’s Oldest City


Posted by: nancycurteman | April 29, 2018

How to Create Unique Character Voices

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Character voice is an important aspect of character development. Each character’s voice in your novel including minor ones should have a unique voice that sets that character apart from others. Character voice can make or break a novel. Your job as an author is to create voices so distinct that each character can be identified without a tag. Here are a few ideas that will help authors can create unique character voices.

Character voice encompasses a number of different elements including dialogue, internal narrative, body language, external interactions, and speech patterns. Here are ways to incorporate these elements into character building.

  • Internal narrative is important because your character’s thought processes aid readers’ understanding of his motivations. Internal narrative reveals hopes, fears, prejudices and regrets. It may show a tender vulnerability in a gruff character or a cruel side of an apparently kind person.
  • Body languageoften speaks louder than dialogue. Consider facial expressions, posture, and bodily tics. Often character voice is found in what is not said as much as what is said.
  • Speech patternssuch as use of slang, grunts, snorts, chuckles or groans say a lot about a character. Manner of speaking such as short or long sentences, clipped words add interest to a voice. Accents or dialects can provide a character’s background.
  • Actions and interactions give each character a distinctive voice. When faced with an issue one might retreat, another cry or lash out in anger, still another might move into an intellectual problem-solving mode, take charge and use a no-nonsense approach to dealing with conflict.
  • Dialogue is influenced by many things. Personality and cultural influences should differ among story people and impact how they interact verbally. Voice is shaped and refined by experiences.

The main qualities of a character will influence the voice.  Is the character cocky, depressed, bossy, optimistic or thoughtful?

Consider your characters ethnicity, religious practices, physical and mental ability, sexuality, gender identity. Let your character’s upbringing, friends, occupation. and past and present relationships influence the way they speak. Whether your character is an introvert or extrovert will impact how they engage in conversation.

Two additional points:

  1. The narration in your novel should be in the voice of the point-of-view character. Using the type of speaking language he would use. You will be presenting the world to the reader through the character’s observation.
  2. A character’s voice is dynamic and may become different at the end of the story compared to the beginning.

If you have other ideas on how to create unique character voices I’d appreciate hearing them.

More Tips:

Dialogue: Body Language Communicates More Than Words
4 Ways to Keep Dialogue Interesting
How to Write Accents and Dialect

Posted by: nancycurteman | April 10, 2018

How do Developmental Editing and Line Editing Differ?

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Every author knows that editing is a critical component of the writing process. It happens after a book has been written and can result in anything from a few simple changes to a complete rewrite of a novel. There are two types of editing, Developmental and Line. Each has an important but different role in perfecting a novel. The question is: How do Developmental Editing and Line Editing Differ?

The best way to describe Developmental Editing is that it deals with the novel as a whole and in large chunks. Developmental Editing includes plotting, pacing, characterization and narrative structure. This type of editing may reposition paragraphs, scenes or chapters. Developmental editing may cut superfluous scenes or even chapters throughout the book. Character examination including believability, actions and growth is included in this type of edit.

Line editing is what makes a novel readable. It often includes proofreading and copyediting. It will refine tone, style, and consistency. It looks at grammar, syntax, spelling, typographical errors,sentence structure and punctuation. It reviews word usage that includes misused words, overused words, and words that do not belong as well as unnecessary adverbs and modifiers. It checks for formatting errors.

Developmental Editing and Line Editing differ but each one is critical to a well-written novel.

More Tips:

Revising and Rewriting a Novel is no Mystery
How to Get a Chapter Just Right
Writing is Rewriting is Revising: 7 Ways to Do It

Posted by: nancycurteman | March 22, 2018

8 Questions Readers Ask About Grace Wright

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In my last post I shared a marketing strategy I use to maintain reader interest in my Lysi Weston Mystery Series and to reinforce differences between characters in terms of values, interests, voice and goals. I posted an interview with one of the novels’ main characters. I pointed out that when I do book events, I often get repeat questions about readers’ favorite characters. One of the most popular characters is Grace Wright. In this post I will model a format for responding to questions about Grace.

What is your job? I bully corporate managers into recognizing and eliminating sexual harassment in the work place.

Any romance in your life? Oh yeah. You know I travel the world in my job. Well, let me tell you, I got a man waiting for me in every port.

Tell us about your relationship with Lysi Weston, your business colleague. Lysi is a doll and no dummy. She would do anything for you. I love her, but she has some problems that bug the hell out of me.. She’s too uptight. I try to loosen her up but it’s a losing battle. Everything has to be planned, scheduled and implemented. She even makes lists. Her biggest problem is her fantasy that she’s some kind of detective. She gets mixed up in murder cases wherever we go. And, OMG! She always gets me involved. Despite all her issues, she’s my BFF.

Do you have any bad habits? I don’t think so. Well, maybe a couple. I imbibe a bit—a little scotch, a little champagne, maybe a cocktail now and then. Oh, and I have a flirty side that upsets my current squeeze. What can I say? I don’t want to be selfish, so I spread my affection around a bit.

Where did you grow up? Not much to tell. Born in good old Harlem, NY. Had an African American dad and a Puerto Rican mama. We lived above my dad’s bookstore. Spent vacations in Mississippi with my paternal grandmother. Education? Got my street smarts in Harlem where I hung with Black and Hispanic gangs. Got a BA and MA from NYU.

How do you stay so fit? Exercise. And let me tell you, the best exercise is hot sex.

What are your favorite activities? Shopping, partying, eating and sex. Not necessarily in that order.

Any new adventures in your future? Yeah. Lysi and I will do a corporate seminar in Dublin, Ireland in a few months. I already bought a “Hug me, I’m Irish” t-shirt.

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

More Tips:

8 Questions Readers Ask About Lysi Weston

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.

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