Posted by: nancycurteman | March 24, 2021

How to Get Inside Your Character’s Head

One of the most important things an author can do is generate feelings and emotions in readers. The best way to accomplish this is to get inside your characters head and reveal that character’s emotions and feelings to your readers. This simple action will enable readers to relate to characters on a deep personal level. There are various strategies to use to get inside your character’s head. Here are some that work for me:

• The most effective way for me to show what’s going on in my character’s head is to recall my own emotional response to a given situation—dangerous, sad, happy, unexpected. I provide my character with similar responses.

• Not all people react to experiences or events in the same way so I try to think about the different ways real people would respond if my story event happened to them.

• Always consider what your character thinks about a story event and why it does or doesn’t matter to hin/her.

• Keep in mind that humans perceive the world through their senses. It’s the same with characters. Always describe the character’s world through what she can see, hear, feel or smell.

• In order to get into your character’s head, first describe what has happened or his physical environment. Then describe your character’s response, thoughts and his spoken words to let the reader into his head.

These are some strategies I use to get into my character’s head. If you have other strategies, I’d love to hear them.

Posted by: nancycurteman | February 23, 2021

Pocket Parks in New York City

That’s right. There are many pocket parks in New York City. Pocket parks? You say. What are pocket parks? 

Pocket parks, also known as parkettes, mini-parks or vest parks, are small outdoor spaces usually no more than a quarter acre. Often they are located in an urban area tucked into small lots surrounded by commercial buildings. 

These tiny gems may provide flowers, shrubs, trees, ponds and even waterfalls. They are areas where wildlife such as birds, can live in the concrete world of the big city. Pocket parks are accessible to the general public and provide quiet refuges and escapes from the busy city surrounding them. In fact, on sunny afternoons they may be full of office workers, kids and construction workers.

New York City has several pocket parks. In fact, a few years ago one of its parks, Greenacre Park, measuring only 60 feet by 120 feet, was named one of the best parks in the world by Project for Public Spaces, along with Central Park, Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens and other much larger parks. Greenacre’s centerpiece is a 25-foot waterfall.

Other lovely little New York City pocket parks include Paley with its potted plants, trees and waterfall. Tudor Greens with its old-time lampposts, vintage urns and flourishing old trees. Creative Little Garden with its beautifully maintained community plant garden is a National Wildlife Federation Habitat thanks to its great job providing birds with happy homes.

New York City has little pocket parks tucked into small spaces throughout the city. 

More tips:

Origins of New York City’s Nicknames 

The Apollo Theater: A Harlem Icon

Tavern on the Green: From Sheep to Chandeliers

Posted by: nancycurteman | January 29, 2021



The Apollo Theater: A Harlem Icon

The neo-classical Apollo Theater is a Harlem icon. Through many ups and downs this theater has survived and even thrived. It opened in 1914, closed in 1976, reopened in 1978, closed in 1979, and reopened in 1981. In 1983, it achieved state and city landmark status as Harlem’s oldest functioning theater.

The Apollo started as a burlesque theater then changed it format to variety. Since its opening, it has played a major role in the emergence of American music originals—jazz, swing, R&B, gospel and soul.

The Apollo introduced some of America’s most unforgettable musicians to the world. The list of stars who started their careers on the Apollo stage seems endless: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Sammy Davis, Jr, James Brown, Pearl Bailey, Gladys Knight, D’Angelo, The temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and jazz great Miles Davis.

Many of these celebrities competed in one of the famous Apollo Amateur Nights. Jimi Hendrix was one of the winners.

Others who had acquired fame returned to perform on the Apollo stage including Smokey Robbins, Dinah Washington and the great Aretha Franklin

The theater was even a venue for dramatic plays such as “The Detective Story” starring Sidney Poitier. It hosted the long-running transvestite hit “25 Men and 1 Girl.”

The Apollo is still going strong. Prince performed there as did Tony Bennett. Barak Obama hosted a campaign fundraiser there in 2007.

The Apollo remains a Harlem icon to this day.

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Kyoto: Celebrated for its Geishas

The Kyoto “Kobe Beef Experience

Posted by: nancycurteman | January 20, 2021

Origins of New York City’s Nicknames

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Readers of the Lysi Weston Travel Mystery series are familiar with one of my main characters, Grace Wright. She is a native of Harlem, New York. My next novel is set in New York City and Grace will visit her home town. In my novel she will often refer to New York City by its nicknames. I thought it might be interesting to share the origins of the city’s many nicknames. So here we go.

  • The Big Apple is the city’s most popular nickname. This nickname was first popularized in the 1820s by sports writer John J FitzGerald. Fitzgerald had heard African-American stable workers allude to New York’s racing industry as “the big apple.” Everyone from the 1930s Harlem jazz musicians to 1970 tour companies promoted the nickname.
  • The Concrete Jungle term was first used by a British zoologist, Desmond Morris in his book , “The Human Zoo.” The nickname was solidified as New York’s own in the 2009 worldwide hit, Empire of Mind.
  • The City that Never Sleeps originally referred to the bowery but in 1979 Frank Sinatra’s hit song New York, New York sang of the city that never sleeps and so did everyone else. The nickname stuck.
  • Gotham, in old Anglo-Saxon days meant “Goat’s Town.” The rather macabre nickname is also associated with Washington Irving, author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” of headless horseman fame. Irving created a nickname for New York that is now over two hundred years old. Also, we all know that Gotham is Batman’s hangout.
  • Metropolis is associated with Superman. Comic legend, Frank Miller explained that “Metropolis is New York in the daytime; Gotham is New York at night.”

New York City has many nicknames. Some originated among New Yorkers, some originated long ago. The nicknames all have interesting origins.


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Posted by: nancycurteman | January 7, 2021

Tavern on the Green: From Sheep to Chandeliers

Tavern on the Green, one of New York City’s unique restaurants, has a unique history. One could say it went from sheep to chandeliers. In fact, the spot where the restaurant stands was once a sheep shed It was designed by Calvert Vaux and built in 1870 to house the sheep that grazed in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. 

After years of contented grazing, the sheep were banished to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and in 1934 the building was transformed in to a restaurant and given the name: Tavern on the Green.

With the addition over the years of a large dance floor, an outdoor patio area and the glass enclosed Crystal Room with its sparkling chandeliers, the sheepfold became the jewel Manhattan. It also became the second-highest-grossing restaurant in the United States.

Tavern on the Green closed in 2009 much to the chagrin of New Yorkers. It was renovated and finally reopened in 2014. Closed during the Covid-19 virus, it will reopen when safe.

Posted by: nancycurteman | December 23, 2020

What is Nonfiction?

What is nonfiction? The short answer is this: If a writing piece is not a made-up story, then it is nonfiction. However, nonfiction writers will tell you that the answer is much more complex than that. Let’s delve into nonfiction a bit more.

There are four main nonfiction categories, each with their own collection of subcategories and writing style:

1. Narrative. This type of nonfiction tells a true story about a person, event or place. It uses literary writing styles and techniques to tell the story. Examples of this category include history, biography, autobiography and memoirs.

2. Expository. The object of this type of nonfiction writing is to explain or inform readers about a topic. It explains what something is, who someone is, what something means, how something works or why something is important. Examples include: guides, how-to manuals and self help books.

3. Persuasive. In order to convince readers to agree with a given perspective, this style of nonfiction writing uses carefully chosen words, and develops logical arguments and a cohesive summary of facts. Examples could include political perspectives, philosophical views (anti or pro death penalty, pro or anti marijuana legalization).

4. Descriptive. The goal is to paint a picture and evoke feelings in the mind of a reader through the use of sensory words.  This category of nonfiction may include: travel guides and travelogues.

The stories written in nonfiction form must: be true and include
• facts
• accurate and well-researched facts
• attempts to inform
• narration by an author who is a real person
• be infomed by the target audience and purpose (author’s reason for writing)
• intent to inform
Nonfiction is a complex writing style but it is plays an essential role in meeting the diverse needs of readers.

Posted by: nancycurteman | December 13, 2020

10 steps to Writing a Good Children’s Picture Book

As authors of adult literature, we sometimes think writing a children’s picture book would be a quick and easy task. Not true. Children are staunch critics with extremely high expectations and standards. Here are 10 steps to consider when writing a children’s picture book.

Step 1 Determine the age range of picture-book children you want to target. Picture books for 2 to 3 year-olds are different from those for 4 to 6 year- olds.

Step 2 Develop an understanding of what kinds of picture books are most appealing to the picture-book age children you wish to target. One way to do this is to survey titles of popular books on library lists. Another is to read aloud several picture books.

Step 3 Resist the idea to use a multitude of words to present the story plot. Most of the story will reside in illustrations. Write no more than 300 to 600 words.

Step 4 Write for illustrators. Give them interesting characters and simple scenes for which they can create child-appealing pictures.

Step 5 Personification of animals with kid-like problems, goals and solution strategies are popular with children. Characters the same age as your target audience are also popular.

Step 6 Open your story quickly with a problem that is very serious to the character. End your story quickly as well. The younger your target audience, the shorter your story should be.

Step 7 Write no more than three or four obstacles your character needs to overcome before she solves her problem. Make each obstacle more difficult than the previous one. Always have a happy ending to the story.

Step 8 Don’t wax poetic about the season, setting or character backstory. Remember, children have short attention spans and by the time you tell them the sun was warm and the grass was green, you’ve probably lost them. Leave the sun and grass to your illustrator.

Step 9 Experiment a bit with language. Repetition, rhyming and some nonsense words will make little children giggle.Use simple vocabulary, short sentences and lots of dialogue. 

Step 10 As a kindergarten teacher and mother, I always preferred stories written in third-person. Think carefully about mechanics like point of view, sentence structure and person.

Children’s books can be fun to create but they are definitely not simple to write.

Posted by: nancycurteman | November 17, 2020

An Irishman Worked on the Harlem Lyft Bridge

When I visited Cushendun, Northern Ireland to learn about the setting for my novel, Murder on the Emerald Isle, I met many wonderful people. One of them, John Robbin, recently sent me a story about his Great Grandfather. He thought this story might interest me because I’m setting my new novel in Harlem, New York. Here is his piece.

My great Grandfather, William Robbin’s nickname was “Oul’ Harlem.” He was allegedly a member of the “Invincibles,” the elite wing of the IRB, (The Irish Republican Brotherhood) the forerunners of the IRA. The goal of the secret IRB was to establish an independent Irish  Republic. This group was responsible for the “Phoenix Park Murders” and were ruthlessly hunted by the authorities. Through the use of informers those guilty were found and executed. Anger at the informers, the remaining “Invincibles” then went worldwide looking for the informers. It is believed my great grandfather was sent to New York to search for the informers among the Irish people living there.

While in New York, my great grandfather worked on the erection of the Harlem Lyft Bridge before returning to Ireland.He only told his story in his later years. He died in 1933 when my father was about 14 years old. He was I believe 79 years old. My grandfather ( Oul Harlem’s son) died in 1922 at age 34 leaving 3 children, my father and two girls so I think my great grandfathe was a strong influence on my father although he passed when my father was still young. I’m sure my great grandfather would have had a lot of stories to tell.

I really enjoyed learning about the IRB and about the role of John Robbin’s great grandfather in the construction of the famous Harlem Lyft Bridge.  Special appreciation to John Robbin for sharing this story.

Posted by: nancycurteman | November 8, 2020

New Lysi Weston Mystery Novel

In my last blog post I mentioned I had started writing a new Lysi Weston mystery novel. The story is set in New York City, specifically Harlem. I chose Harlem because that is the birthplace of Grace Wright, Lysi Weston’s business partner.

The story will take us and Lysi into the childhood and youth experiences of Wright that made her the interesting character she became.

The child of a strong, respected African American father and a beautiful Puerto Rican mother, Grace is a product of two cultures. Her fraternization with both Black and Puerto Rican gang members made her the woman who fearlessly entered and graduated from university and continued to overcome racism and discrimination against women in pursuit of her profession.

When Grace is called home by her desperate mother, Lysi joins her in an adventure in which they will face gang vendettas, murder and a dangerous romance triangle.

So there you have it. As I move through the novel I will share adventures with you. Reminder, I am still working o mastery of the new WordPress format. Again, thank you for your patience.

Posted by: nancycurteman | November 5, 2020

Second Blogging Effort

This is my second blogging effort using the new WordPress format. The program uses something called blocks which are completely new to me. So, as you can see I’ve figured out how to use the title block and the paragraph block. Today I will try to find and use the image block. If I master that, I will be well on my way to returning to my regular blogging topics which are writing and travel subjects.

There, found the image block. Now i’m back with a paragraph block.. I need to find the sections for adding tags. We’ll see how this works out. This used to be so easy!! Thank you to all my followers for your patience.

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