Posted by: nancycurteman | August 17, 2014

Basque Country: The people and Culture

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Basque Country and the people who live there have a unique history and culture. I’ve set my new novel in this interesting locale as well as in Paris. Basque Country is such a fascinating place I decided to share some interesting facts about this somewhat mysterious region.

  • Basque Country is comprised of 7 provinces and straddles the border of two countries. Four provinces are in Spain and 3 in France. French Basque country borders the Bay of Biscay and encompasses the western foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains.
  • The origin of the Basque people is not exact. One theory is that of Professor Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe. He believes they came “out of East Africa 50,000 or so years ago and passed through the Middle East.” It’s generally agreed that the Basque did not mingle with people outside their own group maintaining their unique nationality. Blood-type frequencies support the Basques claims of ethnic uniqueness. They have the world’s highest frequency of type O and RH negative blood.
  • The Basque speak Euskara, a non-Indo-European language, unrelated to any other language in the world. As is the case with the people themselves, the origin of the language is controversial. Some researchers believe it dates back to the Stone Age.
  • Throughout history, Basques have developed a reputation as fierce defenders of their territory. They held off would-be conquerors including Romans, Vikings, Visigoths and Muslims. In modern times they fought to maintain their independence from Franco in Spain. Basques have always dreamed of an independent state.
  • Though Roman Catholicism has been the dominant Basque religion. They also have roots in paganism. Their ancient religion focused on Mari, an early Basque goddess. This goddess worship probably influenced their adoption of matrilineal inheritance laws and the subsequent high status of women in Basque society, in law codes, as well as their positions as judges and inheritors.

In my next post I’ll share some interesting facts about modern-day Basque society.

More About Basque country:

Where is Sare? France That Is

Posted by: nancycurteman | August 7, 2014

10 Things You Need to Know to Write a Great Book Blurb

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thumbnail-2.aspxThe purpose of a blurb is to attract the interest of perspective readers. It must be short, succinct and enticing. Before you write your blog, determine the market for your novel then check out book blurbs in your genre on bookstore shelves and on Amazon. Here are 10 things you need to know to write a great book blurb.

A book blurb should

1. open with a hook line related to your particular genre.

2. name the main protagonists and antagonist.

3. state a goal or problem. Hint at obstacles, conflicts, and stakes, but don’t reveal the plot.

4. not be cluttered with the names of secondary characters.

5. be written in the tone of your book—funny, dark, romantic, mysterious

6. contain a couple of emotional words—dangerous, vicious, tragic, intrigue, murder, betrayal, love

7. not contain a “spoiler!” It’s meant to create curiosity not satisfy it.

8. be written in third person present tense.

9. be between 100-150 words long

10. end with a phrase or question that entices readers to read the book to find out what will happen.

Remember, the blurb is one of the most important selling points of your book along with the cover. Would be customers first look at the book cover then flip the book over and read the blurb. So put considerable time and effort into perfecting your blurb.

More tips:

How to Write a Query Letter for a Mystery Novel
How to Write a Synopsis of Your Mystery Novel

Posted by: nancycurteman | July 26, 2014

7 Ways Authors Can Create Realistic Settings

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Unknown-1It is essential for authors to create realistic settings. Setting is one of the elements that enables readers to imagine their way into a story. The purpose of setting is to add atmosphere to a tale. We all know setting is where your story takes place—in a country, city, airplane, haunted house, castle. This is pretty basic. However, setting must include much more in order to be realistic. Here are 7 ways an author can create realistic settings:

1. Use the five senses to describe setting. Enable your reader to smell the soup bubbling on the stove, hear the rain pelting on the tin roof, feel the lush hotel carpet beneath his bare feet, taste the garlicky spaghetti sauce, see the dents in the old man’s car.

2. Describe weather, season, time of day, flora and fauna but not in too much detail. For example, It was an early spring evening but the damp chill in the air made it feel like the middle of winter. This is brief but the reader gets the feeling tone.

3. Every place you set a story has its own unique culture, traditions and rituals. Describe them. Each Monday night the O’Brian children gathered around their grandparent’s dinner table, and before their spoons touched the Irish stew, had to recite one thing for which they were thankful.

4. Bring in a location’s past or historical elements. This will require some research. Be careful to touch on details important to your novel. Don’t write a history book.

5. Present your location using film techniques. Start with a broad view and gradually focus  on specific closeups. For example: Describe the exterior of the castle and its grounds then gradually work your way through the elegant halls down to the secret torture chamber.

6. Add idiosyncrasies. Just getting to work was frustrating. He never knew if his old clunker would start or not.

7. Decide which details of a setting are most important to your plot and emphasize their descriptions. Minimize other less important details.

Think of setting as a story element that is as important as your characters and describe it with the same care you would use to present your story people. Create realistic settings just as you create realistic characters.

More tips:
Great Settings Make Great Mysteries
8 Uncommon Settings for Your Mystery Novel

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

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