Posted by: nancycurteman | December 18, 2014

Copyright Infringement

Bookmark and Share

60293-Royalty-Free-RF-Clipart-Illustration-Of-A-Confused-3d-Blanco-Man-Character-Looking-At-Large-Question-MarksCopyright infringement is complicated, confusing and a little scary. What if I accidentally write a sentence in my novel that someone else had written in another novel before mine? I’m not a lawyer but I am interested in copyright laws, so I did a bit of research on the topic. A general definition of copyright infringement is using someone else’s creative work without their permission. It is illegal to copy large sections of someone else’s work without their permission even if you provide appropriate citation. The operative words here are “large sections.” According to United States copyright laws, copying one sentence from a piece of writing is not illegal. Copying ideas or writing similar passages is also not illegal. Still a bit confusing?

In order to understand copyright infringement we need to understand the concept of Fair Use. Fair Use is intended to set standards for borrowing small portions of a previously written work, but never the complete work. However, Fair Use prohibits borrowing even small amounts of a work if it can cause financial harm to the original writer or if the lines are considered the heart of the work.
As authors, our best bet is to avoid the quagmire of copyright infringement by making every effort to ensure that our writing is original.

Posted by: nancycurteman | December 9, 2014

What Do Ham, Chocolates and Bayonets Have in Common?

Bookmark and Share

What do ham, chocolates and bayonets have in common? The answer is the city of Bayonne, France. Bayonne, known as Baïona in Basque, is situated in Basque Country on the French side of the Pyrenees. Half-timbered houses with green and red trim, the colors of the Basque flag, augment the feeling that you are in Basque territory. In fact, the city was a center of the Basque separatist movement. Indeed, graffiti expressing a separationist desire in the locals can still be seen. The French government has all but stamped out dangerous tendencies towards nationalism.

Chocolate Bayonne is celebrated as the chocolate capital of France. Exth-1iled Sephardic Jews brought chocolate to Bayonne and helped to introduce the chocolate industry into France. Chocolate boutiques abound in Bayonne, each with its own specialties.

Ham Bayonne is synonymous with ham. The famous jambon de Bayonne even has a protected appellation. To make true jambon de Bayonne, fresh hams are rubbed and covered with salt from the Adour River Basin, then put into a salting-tub. After several days they are washed to remove the excess salt. Finally, the hams are hung in a curing room, where they lose some of their weight and slowly dry—it takes from nine to twelve months to cure a Bayonne ham. Local air and wind play an important 220px-Sceau_jambon_de_Bayonnerole in the flavor of the hams during the curing process. To verify the authenticity of a ham, look for the Lauburu, the Basque cross, branded on the rind with a hot iron.

Bayonets Bayonne was the center of cutlery manufacturing in the 16th century. An armaments industry developed in the city, giving the world the “baïonnette” (bayonet). The exact origin of the knife is not clear. Some claim the bayonet was developed in 1640 on rue des Faures (Blacksmiths’ Street). Others claim Bayonne peasants engaged in a military conflict ran out of powder and shot, and rammed their long-bladed hunting knives into the muzzles of their primitive muskets to fashion impromptu spears. Whatever the claims, Bayonne is always at the center.

In my novel, “Murder on the Seine,” I explore the remnants of the separatist movement and my characters dine on jambon de Bayonne.

More Tips:

Where is Sare, France that is?
Le Pont Neuf: Setting for a New Murder Mystery
Basque Country: The people and Culture

Posted by: nancycurteman | December 2, 2014

How to Create a Book Cover That Sells

Bookmark and Share

thumbnail-2.aspxA striking book cover is that element of your novel that will catch the eye of a perspective buyer. Make sure it’s done right because the book may never leave the bookstore shelf if the cover doesn’t grab the reader. What your book cover looks like is an important aspect of your marketing process. Bookstore browsers spend an average of 8 seconds looking at the front cover of a book before deciding whether to browse any further. If your book cover doesn’t instantly hook their interest your chance to make a sale is gone.

Here are some things to consider when making decisions about your book cover:

• Placement of your title is important. It should appear in the upper section of your cover so it’s the first words your customer reads. Your name should be in a less exalted position and in a smaller size font. Unless you’re a celebrated author, it’s not your name that sells your book but the title.

• Title readability is critical. Select simple fonts not frilly scripts that might be difficult to read. Choose a neutral font color like white or black that will stand out against your cover’s background colors.

• Titles must be easy to read especially with the small covers now featured on many book sales websites. Make your titles short, simple, unique and memorable.

• Cover artwork must match content. An English countryside will not convey a story set in New York City. Misleading covers will disappoint readers.

• Colors make a difference. Reds and blacks can convey danger and violence. White and blue are calming. Pastels are lighthearted. Think about the psychological and emotional effects of the colors you will use on your cover.

• Here’s a couple of “don’ts.” Don’t put a photograph of yourself on the front cover. Don’t list illustrators, editors, credits or thank you notes on the front cover. Place these items on the book back or on inside pages. Everything on your book cover needs to help sell your book.

Create a great book cover and you’ll sell more books.

More Tips:

 9 Steps to Create a Book Title That Sells

Posted by: nancycurteman | November 25, 2014

The Mystery of the Pear in the Bottle

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Shareth-1
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

Bookmark and Share

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 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

Bookmark and Share

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.


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

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share



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.”

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,432 other followers