Posted by: nancycurteman | November 25, 2014

The Mystery of the Pear in the Bottle

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original_9783cd6e318c01f46a899c7234719d8eHave you ever wondered how a whole pear could fit through the tiny neck of a liqueur bottle? The Branas, a Basque family, figured out how to do it. One of the celebrated Basque liqueurs, Poire Williams, is made from the Williams pear (known as the Bartlett pear in the United States and Canada). Among the very best producers of Poire Williams is the Brana family based in Pays Basque near Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, an area which is famous for its fruit-based digestifs. Forty years ago Etienne, the third generation of the Brana family of wine merchants, created a liqueur from the renowned poires William grown in his own orchard. Today connoisseurs consider Poire Brana the best in the world—AND they produce bottles that contain whole pears inside. The mystery is how do they do it? Here’s the solution to the mystery. The pear actually grows inside the bottle. Producers stick bottles over budding pear tree branches and secure them with wires and gardener’s tape. They wait for the buds to grow into pears inside the glass. Air is periodically pumped into the bottle so the fruit doesn’t rot and some producers even cut the other pears off the branch so the one pear gets as much nutrition as possible. When the pears are mature and ripe they remove the bottles from the tree, with the pears still inside them, and meticulously clean the inside glass by hand with special brushes. Then the pears are pricked slightly to let the juice out before filling the bottles with eau de vie. th-1Tending to the pears in bottles is a labor-intensive process. Common problems are the bottles breaking, the wind knocking them down, or too much rain getting inside and rotting the fruit. Many bottles are lost. But, the ones that survive are an extraordinary taste treat. The characters in my novel, “Murder on the Seine,” savor the delicious Poire Brana liqueur.

More Tips:

Basque Country: The people and Culture
Basque Country: The Culture and The People

 

Posted by: nancycurteman | November 17, 2014

6 Ways to Create Powerful Verbs

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Powerful verbs are to writing what powerful engines are to airplanes. They are one of the elements needed to propel your story forward. To energize your writing, you need to use a variety of powerful action verbs. They should appeal to the reader’s senses of sight, sound, touch or smell. Verbs outrank adjectives and adverbs in their ability to provide realistic visuals and evoke feelings in your readers. Here are 6 ways to create powerful verbs:
  • Replace simple verbs with picturesque verbs:
    -Characters can walk but it’s better if they saunter, stride, strut, swagger, vault, skulk, or sashay
    -They can see but it’s better if they gawk, gape, glare, eyeball, laser, or study
    -Characters can cry but it’s better if they wail, bawl, bleat, yowl, blubber, weep or bleat
  • Use one concise verb rather than a verb phrase.
    -Instead of: He did not remember to take his list. Say: He forgot his list.
    -Instead of: She did not pass the paper screening. Say: She failed the paper screening.
  • Verbs ending in –ing weaken the impact of your verbs.
    -Instead of: The sun was burning her. Say: The sun burned her.
    -Instead of: He was going to pass her in a moment. Say: He would pass her in a moment.
  • Replace most of your passive verbs with active verbs. However, there are times when it is better to use passive verbs? Use the passive verb when the story calls for a change of pace. For example, to slow down the action, reduce tension, or stretch the narrative.
  • Replace your adverbs with verbs that are so powerful they don’t require modifiers.
  • Invent interesting verbs from other word forms.
    -She skunked the car up with her Limburger cheese
    -He snaked through the hallways of the old house.
    -She wormed her way out of the exam
    -She doctored the paper until it was perfect.
    -Old man Jones policed his yard with a shotgun at his side.
    -They tabled or shelved your idea.

Powerful verbs can make the difference between a slow-moving novel and one that is a page-turner.

More Writing Tips:

How to Add Creative Transitions to Your Novel

What is Story Structure?

 

Posted by: nancycurteman | November 6, 2014

“Murder on the Seine” Has Arrived

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Murder on the Seine

 

Solstice Publishing has released my latest Lysi Weston mystery novel, “Murder on the Seine.” Murder on the SeineThe novel, set in Paris and the Pyrenees, is now available for preorder on Amazon.com. Solstice will release the  print version on November 11th. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Posted by: nancycurteman | November 2, 2014

Book Events are Great Marketing Vehicles

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In the past I’ve posted pieces about how to market your novels.Book events are great vehicles for marketing.  I try to provide examples of these events from time to time. Here is an upcoming event sponsored by California Writers Club Fremont branch. And by the way, if you have not joined a writing club, you should give it serious consideration. Their events are great for promoting your novels.

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More Tips:
How to Market Your EBook Mystery Novel
14 Suggestions for Creating a Marketing Plan
Free Book Marketing Using Email

Posted by: nancycurteman | October 21, 2014

How to Create Character Bios

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akillerideaReaders love to know how authors created their characters. When I do a book presentation I always get character questions like: Did you base this character on a real person you know? How did you decide on a character’s name? How did you figure out your character’s personality traits? These questions arise because stories are less about what happens and more about who things happen to. Most characters face real problems that readers experience, so readers often identify with story people and want to know more about them. Lysi Weston and Grace Wright are the two protagonists in my Lysi Weston mystery series. Here are two examples of their character bios that I presented at my last Library book signing.

  • Lysi Weston-

Weston was born and raised in San Francisco, California. Her parents were professors of classical literature at San Francisco State University and named her Lysistrada, Lysi for short. Lysistrada is the title of Aristophanes’ comic play written in 411 B.C. about a woman who gets tired of the Greek men of her city fighting in the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. She persuades the women to withhold all services from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace. She succeeds. Lysi’s last name, Weston, is from my maiden name West. Lysi fancies herself a sleuth because her uncle was a San Francisco district attorney and because she took classes in law enforcement at university. Lysi dreamed of being a homemaker supported by an adoring husband. She married right after college graduation and divorced her abusive husband after a few years. She put her life back together and became an independent, self-sufficient, career woman. This background information helps explain Lysi’s conservative nature.

  • Grace Wright

Wright was born and raised in Harlem, New York, the daughter of a Puerto Rican Mother from El Barrio and an African-American Father. Grace’s real name is Maria Rosa because her father wanted to name her after Rosa Parks of Civil Rights fame and her mother wanted to name her after the Virgin Mary. Grace insisted on taking the name of both her grandmothers—Grace. Grace’s father, a reformed gang member, owns a bookstore. He still has a reputation for being tough and has continued to own the Harlem streets since he was sixteen. As a result, Grace had gang member friends who respected her because of her father. This is the source of Grace’s worldliness. Grace spent summers in Mississippi with her paternal grandmother and learned to cook from her Puerto Rican grandmother. University-educated, Grace speaks formal English but can express herself in Harlem slang and in a soft Southern drawl. This background information helps explain Grace’s comfort in an executive board room or on a Harlem street. I present this type of bio for each of my most interesting characters. This additional information helps my readers understand my story people and how they face their fictional world.

More Tips:

Developing Characters is No Mystery

5 Ways to Make Your Characters Tap Into the Emotions of Your Readers

Secret Pasts Make Sympathetic Story Characters

Posted by: nancycurteman | October 14, 2014

The Arénes de Lutèce: A Roman Amphitheatre in the Middle of Paris

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Arenes_de_Lutece
An ancient Roman amphitheatre sits in the middle of Paris in the 5th arrondisement—the Arénes de Lutèce.

At the end of the first century A.D. the Romans constructed the Arénes de Lutece on the slopes of Mount Sainte-Geneviève near Lutèce, the ancient village of the Parisi people after whom the city of Paris was named. The Romans built the amphitheatre to house circuses, sporting events and theatrical productions by contemporary playwrights such as Aristophenes and Plautus. Seventeen thousand spectators once attended spectacles in the amphitheatre including gladiator fights. You can still see the cages where the animals were kept under the stands. Bleachers surrounded more than half the arena’s circumference. Slaves, the poor, and women sat in the upper bleachers. Roman dignitaries sat in the lower seats.

Today the Arènes de Lutèce is part of every day Parisian life. You can even see Parisians playing football, pétanque or other games in the middle of the ruined arena, just like their Roman ancestors did centuries ago. The Arènes de Lutèce is a public park, accessible by a passageway through the building at 47, rue Monge. Over the entrance is a big cement gladiator helmet that harks back to an earlier time. A visit to the Arènes de Lutèce makes you feel like you’ve been transported back into another era

 

More About Paris:

Montmartre Shouts and Whispers

Au Lapin Agile: A Place to Frolic With the French

Le Pont Neuf: Setting for a New Murder Mystery

Posted by: nancycurteman | October 5, 2014

Too Much Description, Too Much Explaining

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Our goal as authors is to enable readers to “experience” a story. Description is one of our best tools for enhancing reader experience. Not long drawn-out information dumps that slow story pace but short, vivid descriptions that evoke emotion.

As authors we often fall into the trap of over describing and explaining.

We worry that readers will not have a clear picture of a place or a good understanding of a character’s feelings or reactions unless we pile on the adjectives, adverbs and explanatory comments. This is a formula for failure because it takes the reader out of the story and into the world of the narrator.

The best way to ensure unobtrusive description is to paint an image through the eyes of characters. Simply describe what they see, feel and react to as they go about their story lives. Character actions and dialogue are the best vehicles for vivid description.

Have faith in your readers. Allow them to picture their own version of events. The fact is they don’t care about what you see and think about a scene. They care about what your character experiences. Let your characters’ actions portray their environment and emotions. This is what propels the story forward.

 

More Tips:

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

4 Do’s and Don’ts of  ”Show, Don’t Tell.”

Posted by: nancycurteman | September 27, 2014

20 Chapter Endings to Keep Readers Reading

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th-1Every chapter and scene should end in a way that makes the reader want to continue reading.  The last sentence can determine whether a reader will turn the page or put the book down. Here are 20 examples of ending sentences that are sure to motivate a reader to turn the page and keep on reading. Try adapting some of these sentences to your story.

Something was very, very wrong.

What happened next, he never saw coming.

Realization crashed over him like a tidal wave

Bloody Hell

Why hadn’t she thought of that before?

Who was she protecting?

Now it might be too late.

It was what she said next that sent a chill through his body.

It wasn’t what he said but what he didn’t say that shocked her.

He slammed on the brakes but it was too late. *

To his horror, he suddenly realized why he was there. *

She picked up the phone and gasped when she heard the voice from her past. *

“No,” she begged. “Please don’t—” *

How could this happen? *

He thought he had made his point—but then he read the last sentence again. *

Oh no. Please, no.

What she saw would change her life forever.

Who could he tell?

She had to find the answer.

Did anyone see her?

Can you think of more great ending sentences to keep readers reading? I’d love to add them to this list.

More Tips:

How to End a Mystery Novel
How to Write Endings for Mystery Novels

* indicates sentences generated by Fremont Area Writers.

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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 pont_neuf-1

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

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