Posted by: nancycurteman | September 18, 2014

Larry’s Steakhouse: Something for Every Palate

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Last week my husband and I traveled to upstate New York for his high school reunion. We stayed in Batavia, a small city in Genesee County. Our last evening before returning home we wanted to celebrate with a special dinner. As if by serendipity we found the perfect venue, Larry’s steakhouse.

The moment we walked through the door, IMG_1017a hostess greeted us with a welcoming smile and showed us to a table, shared the house specialties and presented us with a menu. Lori, our delightful server gave us plenty of time to peruse the menu selections that included such gourmet dishes as Larry’s legendary hand-cut steaks with all the trimmings (choices from 10 ounce sirloins to 22 ounce Porterhouses). There were seafood delights like Asian glazed salmon and crab stuffed haddock or Larry’s special Bourbon Street penne pasta topped with a mouth-watering mélange of blackened shrimp, scallops, chicken, sausage and Cajun butter. On the lighter side, we found a variety of fresh hand tossed salads—Caesar or Pear & Goat Cheese with an amaretto- poached pear.

Lori was helpful, efficient and answered all our menu questions. She also had a great sense of humor. Stephen Mullen, the owner, even stopped by our table to chat for a few minutes.

Besides the attractive dining room, the restaurant has a small banquet room appropriately called the Batavia Room. Every Thursday night during the summer owner Stephen Mullen provides acoustical music on his outdoor patio to enhance to dining pleasure.

Located at 60 Main Street in Downtown Batavia, Larry’s Steakhouse has a relaxing ambience and the staff is friendly and welcoming. Try it the next time you’re in Genesee County. You won’t be disappointed.

Posted by: nancycurteman | September 10, 2014

Le Pont Neuf: Setting for a New Murder Mystery

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Since the setting for my soon-to-be-released Lysi Weston mystery novel, Murder on the Seine is Pont Neuf in Paris, France, I decided to share a bit about the history of the celebrated bridge.

The Pont Neuf or new bridge is the oldest bridge in Paris. In 1550, Parisians requested that King Henry II build the new bridge to relieve medieval traffic congestion on Pont Notre-Dame. The Pont Neuf was not completed until the reign of Henry IV, who inaugurated it in 1607.

Pont Neuf was considered the first of the modern bridges in Paris and the most famous. It was the first stone bridge without houses crowding along it and was fitted with paved areas to protect people from mud and horses. Bastions along both sides of the bridge allowed pedestrians to step aside to avoid being run down by carriages. The bridge was christened New Bridge because King Henry IV insisted it not be lined with houses like all the older bridges as he wanted nothing to obstruct his view of the Louvre Palace.

At the point where the bridge crosses Ile de la Cité, the boat-shaped island in the middle of the Seine, stands a bronze equestrian statue of King Henry. He was nicknamed le Vert-Galant because of his appetite for love and his collection of mistresses. Legend has it there were 73 of them including many one-night stands. King Henry had other claims to fame. To this day the French call him “Le Bon Roi Henri,” the good king and for good reason. When he ascended the throne as a protestant he converted to Catholicism saying, “Paris is worth a mass” and soon after signed the Edict of Nantes bringing an end to the religious wars in France. In addition, he cared for the common people and famously promised a chicken in every pot.

The bridge had its problems from the very day it was constructed. Gangs hung out near it and robbed and murdered people who crossed. For a long time, the bridge even had its own gallows conveniently located to execute the many culprits captured in the area. In my novel, the victim is murdered on Le Pont Neuf.

Watch for Solstice Publishing’s release of Murder on the Seine in a couple of months.

More About Paris:

Montmartre Shouts and Whispers

Au Lapin Agile: A Place to Frolic With the French

Posted by: nancycurteman | September 2, 2014

How to Write Great Settings: Some Do’s and Don’ts

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thCreating a setting for a novel is more complex than simply describing the location where the story action occurs. Setting is more than a word picture of a place. It should influence plot and character action. Setting can be the primary motivational factor in a novel, forcing characters to behave in certain ways. To ensure setting does it job, view it as another character and give it the attention it deserves. Here are five do’s and don’ts for creating great settings:

Do

  • work from the general to the specific when creating a setting.
    -Describe the country, city or neighborhood before describing the shop.
    -Describe the house exterior before describing the kitchen.
  • provide specifics. They make the plot, characters, and character actions more real.
  • describe sub-settings within your chosen setting
    – The inside of a car.
    – The bar in a nightclub.
  • work from the concrete to the abstract smells, feelings, atmosphere
  • use dialogue to reveal setting.
    – characters can tell each other about specific attributes of a setting
    -The manner in which characters speak and their use of vocabulary as well as the rituals and traditions unique to a certain place can reveal setting, e.g. southern drawls, Harlem slang, October Fest
  • indicate the season of the year and time of day the scene occurs
  • add sensory detail by describing what a character sees, hears, smells, and feels.

Don’t

  • describe setting at the beginning of every scene or chapter. Incorporate it into action.
  • write long descriptions of setting. Sprinkle your descriptions throughout the scene.

Careful attention to setting is as important as careful attention to character development.

More Tips:

Great Settings Make Great Mysteries
8 Uncommon Settings for Your Mystery Novel
7 Ways Authors Can Create Realistic Settings

 

 

Posted by: nancycurteman | August 25, 2014

Basque Country: The Culture and The People

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Basque Country anes-pvd 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. In my first post I wrote about the history of the Basques. This time I’ll share a few things about their current culture.

  • The classic beret we associate with the French was first worn in the Basque region and then exported to France. Basques wear their large berets with pride.
  • A Basque, Ignatius Loyola, founded the rigorous religious order, the Jesuits in 1534.
  • Basque architecture is rather unique. The traditional buildings of have a low roof, half-timbered features, stone lintels and are typically painted in red, white and green. Edmond Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac lived and worked in a Basque house.
  • The Basque flag consists of a white cross over a green saltire (a heraldic symbol in the shape of an X) on a red field. images-1The colors of the Basque flag are red, green, and white. The red color of the field means Biscay, the historical Basque homeland. The white St. Andrew’s cross means the independence of the Basque Country. Green symbolizes the oak tree of Gernika, symbol of Basque freedom.
  • There are many food specialties in Basque country. Gateau Basque (cake) is a traditional dessert made up of almond flour with a filling of either pastry cream or preserved cherries. The soft, crumbly sable dough is flavored with a little rum and baked in tart rings. Piment peppers taste a bit like peach and sea brine, and are quite spicy. Piment peppers are delicious on Bayonne ham which is an air-dried salted ham that takes its name from the ancient port city of Bayonne. The ham has to be produced from one of eight clearly defined breeds of pig reared in an area from Deux Sevres to Aveyron and Aude. The production of the ham is strictly specified and regulated. All the Bayonne is ham marked with the gateau-basque-1Lauburu, the Basque Cross. Izarra is a popular liquor from Basque Country. The almond-flavored Yellow Izarra, is a 40-proof alcohol made from 32 herbs. For a peppermint taste, there is Green Izarra, made from 48 different herbs and is stronger than 48 proof. It takes 15 months to produce Izarra plus another six months to mature in the barrel. Basques drink it straight, in cocktails and to flavor chocolates and other desserts.

I write about the unique and remarkable Basque history and customs in my upcoming new novel.

More about Basque Country

Where is Sare? France That Is

Basque Country: The people and Culture

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

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