Posted by: nancycurteman | July 14, 2014

Hard Choices Create Strong Conflict in Novels

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In every novel the choices characters must make lead to conflict. The more complex the choice or its ramifications, the greater the conflict. Consider some of these difficult choices.

• Choice that’s a leap in the dark. The character has no idea what will be the result of a given choice. All she knows is no choice most certainly will result in great sorrow or pain. Maybe choosing the unknown would result in something better.

• Impossible choices have no clear answer, which means the reader won’t see it coming. If you get your reader thinking, “I could never decide on one of these choices,” you’ll keep them hooked. Create a scenario in which something horrible will happen no matter what the protagonist does.

• Choices that create moral dilemma. Characters make a choice but they don’t really approve of what they’ll have to do as a result of that choice. The choice requires going against their personal beliefs. The “right” answer or course of action is clearly, absolutely in conflict with everything the protagonist knows is right and true. Doing a bad thing for a good cause. Connect the consequence to your character’s ideals.

• Choices that impact others.Your protagonist’s choice may betray, disappoint, or hurt someone he cares about, someone who trusts him. Think: Should she tell what she really saw and betray her friend or husband or child?

• A choice between what the character wants and what the character needs. Is money more important than a loving relationship? She loves the baby but has no way to provide for her. Adoption by good parents would insure a positive future for the baby.

Give your characters hard choices that torture their souls. Strong conflict will result.


More Tips:

How Do Conflict and Crisis Differ in a Mystery Novel?

How Important is Conflict in a Mystery Story?


Posted by: nancycurteman | June 30, 2014

How Mystery Writers Use Multiple Points of View

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iStock_000003688168XSmallWorrySitFemale2Mystery writers often use multiple points of view as a strategy for creating tension in their novels. Point of view changes in mystery novels are a great vehicle for raising the level of suspense. This strategy enables mystery authors to create events and reveal information slowly through more than one character’s perspective. Point of view changes can enable authors to stretch their plot over more than one location at the same time. Some authors may find a linear format timeline easier.

Consider these points when writing multiple points of view:

• In most mystery novels three to five point of view characters are enough.

• The start of a new chapter is the best place to move to a new character point of view.

• A new scene and setting will also work. Remember to leave some white space before starting a new scene.

• Try to make each point of view character unique and distinct with her own set of goals.

• Sometimes there are two point of view characters in a scene. In this case, choose the character that has most at stake and write from her perspective.

Use multiple points of view in your mystery novel and watch the plot thicken.

More Tips:

Perfect Characters are Paper Characters
Developing Characters is No Mystery
5 Ways to Make Your Characters Tap Into the Emotions of Your Readers

Posted by: nancycurteman | June 19, 2014

The Internet: A World of Information at Your Fingertips


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One of the best tools available to writers is the Internet. It puts the world at your fingertips. It has made researching my five novels a piece of cake. I can hardly imagine authoring a book without it.

When I write a novel I always set it in a location in which I’ve spent considerable time. It’s important to do this in order to get the “feel” for the location—scents, sounds, attitudes. However, I always need additional bits of information for my novels that I did not come across while visiting the country or city. Enter the Internet as a vehicle to find what I need. For example, in writing my novel, Murder Casts a Spell set in South Africa, I needed to know the color of uniforms worn by police officers. While writing Murder Down Under set in Australia, I needed a description of a mural in Alice Springs created by an Arrente aborigine artist. I found both the artist and the uniform colors on the Internet.

Although my major use of the Internet is to ensure authenticity in my novels, I also use it to locate general information and answers to just about any question I might have. And here’s the big bonus! During my research I always stumble on other information I can incorporate into my stories to make them more real.

If you have not already jumped into cyberspace, consider doing it today. I guarantee you will be as delighted as I am.

More tips:

Great Settings Make Great Mysteries
8 Uncommon Settings for Your Mystery Novel

Posted by: nancycurteman | June 11, 2014

Reviews of Novels, Short or Long, are Treasured by Authors

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KillerIdeasForSafeTravelThese days everyone has so many demands on their time—family, professional, social, community. Taking the time to write a review of a novel you’ve just read seems like an impossible addition to the hundreds of tasks already filling your time. While authors understand this, they also want you to know how much they treasure your reviews. Long reviews can take a great deal of time to write and are greatly appreciated. However, authors want you to know that short reviews are also of great value to them. In an effort to reassure you that short reviews are important, I’d like to share some short reviews of my novels that mean a lot to me. These reviews were posted on Amazon:

• Nancy Curteman has given us another delightful mystery, this time set in Australia. We get to know Lysi better in this mystery as well as enjoying the descriptions of the Australian countryside and manners. Another delightful book…..and looking forward to the next one!

• I found this book quite captivating, holding my interest throughout. It’s about an area quite unkown to me ,so, naturally I was interested in the descriptions of areas and sites as well as new activities. A very good read.

• The opening tells how the differences between people can mean the difference between dying alone or dying with the help of good Samaritans. The main characters are engaging and the premise is very interesting. The book has loads of humor and realistic details about life.

• The book was well written, had a captivating plot and was fun to read. I would highly recommend this novel.

• Murder Casts a Spell by Nancy Curteman delivers what it promises–a murder mystery told with tension on almost every page. The reader also learns about life and customs in South Africa, the setting for the novel. I couldn’t put it down. I recommend it, if you love a mystery.

• I have really enjoyed reading all her books, once you start reading then, you don’t want to put it down

• This an excellent read with a realistic pace and characters to which one may relate. The characters are four dimensional, with actions that, while not predictable, are logical with rational motivation. Also, the character development is very good, leaving you with a sense of knowing the personality.

• Enjoyed the quick read. Well plotted with full characters. I look forward to more stories and locales by Nancy Curteman.

As you can see there are various approaches to these short reviews. What the reviews  have in common is that I treasure them all. You can find  these reviews on my Amazon book pages.

More Tips:

How to Write a Book Review on Amazon

How to write a Book Review





Posted by: nancycurteman | May 29, 2014

How to Add Creative Transitions to Your Novel

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Stories consist of chapters and scenes. Transitions are what come between. They are what connect one scene or chapter to a previous one. They need to be creative andshiny flow with the story content.

Use transitions to move a reader to a new place or time. Use them as a way to change to a new point of view character or even a given character’s change of perspective, values or goals.

Transitions can happen at the beginning and/or end of scenes and chapters. Used at the end they need to generate reader interest, anticipation and eagerness to turn the page. Used at the beginning, they orient the reader to a new time, place or character mood.

Let’s look at a few ways to create character changes and  beginning and ending transitions.

Transitional endings:
• End the scene with a question
Can we get there before the tide floods the entrance to the cave?
Is it safe for me to get into his car?

• End with a provocative statement
She slammed the door and he knew she’d had enough.
Her car stalled on the railroad tracks.

• End with an action.
She flung the flowers into the trash.
He aimed the gun and pulled the trigger.

Transitional beginnings:
• Passage of time
Three cocktails later he gave up waiting for her.
The daffodils signaled the end of the long winter.

• Change of place
Two flat tires later he arrived at the border.
After two exhausting campaigns she made it to D.C.

Transitions to  different character points of view and changes in character goals or values:
• Embed new character points of view in new scenes.
Confusion results when you jump in and out of characters’ heads in the same scene.
• Provide a life changing incident that will precipitate a dramatic change  in character values or goals—a death, divorce, shock, accident, loss.

Creative transitions are more interesting to readers than the run-of-the-mill kinds like—Next Tuesday…, He arrived in Chicago…, It started to rain… Give as much thought to your transitions as you give to your scenes and chapters.

More tips:

How to Create a Plot for a Novel

How to Write Novel Scenes That Are Novel

4 Attributes of an Engaging Novel

Posted by: nancycurteman | May 17, 2014

Mysteries Set in Amsterdam

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thI enjoy travel and I love to write mysteries. I set my mysteries in the places I’ve visited. It’s no surprise that I also enjoy reading mysteries set in countries around the world.

Recently I discovered a Dutch mystery writer, Janwillem van de Wetering, who sets his novels in Holland. Wetering is particularly noted for his detective fiction. The book that caught my interest was Outsider in Amsterdam. It is the first in his lengthy series about Amsterdam Cops. The series features Grijpstraa and de Gier, a pair of detectives in the Murder Brigade of the Amsterdam Municipal Police. A little affective side interest about these characters is that these two tough cops are musicians when not hunting down murderers.Van de Wetering was awarded the French Grand Prix de Littérature de Policière for this series. I like a good mystery, but one of the things I also love about Wetering’s Amsterdam novels are his vivid images of Amsterdam. I felt like I was right there wandering the streets of that unique city.220px-Janwillem_van_de_Wetering

When I read the Amazon plot description I was hooked. Here it is:
“Piet Verboom is found dangling from a beam in the Hindist Society he ran as a restaurant-commune in a quiet Amsterdam street. Detective-Adjutant Gripstra and Sergeant de Gier of the Amsterdam police force are sent to investigate what looks like a simple suicide.”

Does it hook you?


More Tips:

Five Must-Read European Mystery Writers

Posted by: nancycurteman | May 3, 2014

Suspense Equals Reader Worry and Curiosity

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th-3Suspense equals reader worry and curiosity. It is the vehicle authors use to produce these two anxiety-ridden emotions in readers. Suspense occurs when readers
• ask these questions: Who did it? Why? Is this a clue? How will the culprit be stopped?
• experience apprehension, tension, and anxiety generated from an unpredictable plot.
• hope the hero will succeed but worry he will fail.
• experience a feeling of impending danger, but don’t have a clear idea of its source.
• get inside the head of a character and learn his conflicting feelings and emotions and worry about their impact on his actions.are constantly guessing and wondering what’s going to happen next.
• worry about characters and dread that they’ll fail to achieve their goals.
• uncertainties are heightened through unexpected twists.
• know something vital that the characters aren’t aware of.
• are party to difficult choices characters must make.
In short, suspense is that feeling that keeps a reader reading. As authors we need heighten suspense by engendering worry and curiosity in our readers

More Tips: How to Create Tension in Writing:
How to Increase Tension Through Character Inner Conflict

Posted by: nancycurteman | April 22, 2014

How to Market Your Novel

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thumbnail-2.aspxThese days it’s up to most authors to market their books themselves. This can be a time-consuming job that steals time away from writing. Every now and then I try to provide examples of ways authors can market their novels and still have time to do what they love—write. Here is an idea that will make your marketing job a little easier. Hold reading events at places like book clubs, bookstores, Open Mikes, special interest groups and libraries.

Here’s an example from my personal efforts. The American Association of University Women contacted me and offered me the opportunity to participate on an author panel. I’ve never done an author panel before but hey, it’s an opportunity to market my novels. They will even allow me to bring books to sell. I’m willing to try something new because it will get my name out to a group of people who might just like to checkout my mysteries.

More Tips on Marketing:

Free Book Marketing Using Email

5 Ways Readers Find Books


Meet the Authors042014

Posted by: nancycurteman | April 14, 2014

Where is Sare? France That Is.

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Unknown-1Sare is a small village in the province of Labourd in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques in south-western France. It is situated deep in Basque country only about 2 miles from the Spanish border. In fact, Sare residents like to say they can have breakfast in France and lunch in Spain.

Sare is known for its festivals, its love of tradition and its great food. It is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. Cradled in a ring of Pyrenees foothills, the village seems to doze in the shadow of steep, craggy Rhune Mountain. The area surrounding Sare is pastoral with cows and Manech, red-faced sheep, lounging on the green meadows. Wild pottok, small sturdy Basque ponies, graze in the distance. A two-lane country road replete with roundabouts every few miles leads into the village with its large pelota court, shaded streets and fine 17th century Church of Saint Martin with its wooden galleries. Seventeenth century houses in Sare are built in the traditional style of the region, with shutters painted in the red and green of the Basque flag.Unknown

Sare is a major prehistoric site. Though the most ancient traces of human activity in the Basque country date from 200,000 years ago, prehistoric humans stayed in the Caves of Sare from 35,000 to 10,000 BC. Less than 4 miles south of Sare you will find the Grottes de Sare, filled with evidence of prehistoric inhabitants. Basque mythology has it that to this day lamiaks, little siren-like creatures, still dwell in the

For an unforgettable experience, take a 35-minute trip on the Little Train of the Rhune. At the breathtaking speed of 9 kilometers per hour it puffs up to the summit of Mount Rhune where you will see views of the seven provinces of the Basque Country, the peaks of the Pyrenees, the outstretched beaches of the Landes region, and the Basque coastline from Biarritz to Saint-Sébastien. There are a couple of restaurants and souvenir shops at the summit as well. This authentic vintage rack railway train dating from 1924 takes you through the countryside where you will be able to discover the specific fauna and flora of the Basque mountains. 
Look for the huge Griffon Vulture, an emblematic bird of prey of the Pyrenees.

So, where is Sare? It is the place you want to see. Put it on your “bucket list.”

More travel tips:

5 Reasons to Fall in Love With Nice

Avignon’s Boutique Hotel Montmartre Shouts and Whispers

Au Lapin Agile: A Place to Frolic With the French

Posted by: nancycurteman | April 3, 2014

Write What You Love

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There are as many reasons to write as there are writers. I find interest in something is a compelling reason for writing. If authors can tap into something of personal value to them, they will never run out of topics. In other words, write what you love.

I love research, travel and reading mystery novels. So, all my books are mystery novels set in interesting places I’ve learned about and visited.


Murder in a Teacup is set in southeastern Montana. An important part of the novel deals with the modern-day life of the Cheyenne tribe living on the reservation near Lame Deer, Montana. Through research and on site visits I learned a great deal about this Native American tribe while writing my book. I incorporated the information into my story line.


Murder Down Under is set in Australia. While puzzling through the murder plot readers are introduced to life in both Sydney and on an Outback sheep station. They also learn about the culture and history of the Australian Aborigines. Australian foods and customs run through the novel.

Murder Casts a Spell Final

Readers travel to Cape Town, South Africa in Murder Casts a Spell. They spend time in a township and gain insight into the sad and dangerous conditions in which the residents struggle to raise their families. A characters excursion to Namibia provides a peek at another African country.

The novel I’m writing now is set in France. My readers will walk the streets of Paris and travel to Basque country in the Pyrenees with my sleuths as they work to solve their murder case. I’ll share the unique Basque culture and the exciting Parisian lifestyle.

I never tire of writing what I love.

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