Posted by: nancycurteman | September 1, 2015

Lethal Lesson

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Posted by: nancycurteman | August 31, 2015

Lethal Lesson

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Solstice Publishing has released “Lethal Lesson,” the second novel in the Lysi Weston Mystery series. The novel is now live on Amazon in both print and ebook formats. The story tells about Lysi’s earlier period when she returns to her former profession as a school principal.

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Posted by: nancycurteman | August 25, 2015

How to Write Accents and Dialects

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th-2Your treatment of accents and dialects can make or break your mystery novel. The ability to accurately write accents and dialects is important because your characters come from all over, and their particular dialect or accent can reveal differences in ethnicity, geography, demographics, class, education, and culture. Here are some strategies for writing accents and dialects:

• Nonstandard grammar and spellings must be used carefully. It’s more effective to use standard spelling and describe patterns of speech when introducing the character. “His background revealed itself in his lazy Texas drawl.”

• Pay attention to differences in word choices. When it rains, Americans duck under an umbrella while Brits open a brolly.

• Note syntax (word order). The French say, “He goes often to the movies.” Americans would say, “He often goes to the movies.”

• Every language has unique idioms that pertain to a character’s geographic location or time in history. Americans cough when they have a “frog in their throat.” The French cough when they have a “cat in their throat.”

• Have your character use foreign words that are universally familiar or can be understood from context. “Merci, adios, danke.”  ”’Au revoir.’ He waved goodbye to her.”

• Use standard English dialogue but describe how the character spoke the words. “‘What is poker?’ The Frenchman asked. He pronounced the word poker like poke air.”

Writing accents and dialects can provide vivid character description but it must be done carefully.

More Tips:

Interior Dialogue: A Great Tool for Mystery Writers
How to Solve the Interior Monologue Mystery
Dialogue: Body Language Communicates More Than Words

Posted by: nancycurteman | August 17, 2015

Fleur de Lis: Legend and History

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thThe Fleur de Lis is one of the most recognized symbols across the world. Early on France embraced the symbol as its own. Over the years the Fleur de Lis has adorned French architecture, paintings, royal crowns and even flags. The history of this beautiful symbol has its roots shrouded in obscure facts and legends.

The Fleur de Lis has been used as an ornament or an emblem by almost all civilisations of the old and new worlds. The oldest examples of Fleur-de-Lis have been found on Assyrian bas-reliefs from the 3rd millenium BC. It appeared on coins and seals from the 10th c.

One legend states that the French or Franks, before entering Gaul itself, lived for a long time around the river Leie in Flanders. Yellow irises grew in abundance along this river and still do. Some historians theorize that the modern Fleur de Lis is patterned after these iris and the name, Lis, was adapted from the river’s name, Leie.

Another legend tells that an angel presented Clovis, the fifth century Merovingian king of the Franks, with a golden lily as a symbol of his purification upon his conversion to Christianity and that the golden lilies on an azure background were miraculously substituted for the crescents on Clovis’ shield.

In the twelfth century, history records that King Louis VII became the first French King to use the Fleur-de-Lis on his shield.th-1

France adopted the Fleur de Lis for its coat of arms when all other sovereigns of Europe chose animals for their symbol.

Joan of Arc carried a Fleur de Lis on her white banner when she led French troops to victory over the English in support of Charles VII, in his quest for the French throne.

Traditionally, the Fleur de Lis has been used to represent French Royalty, and it is said to signify perfection, light, and life. The Roman Catholic Church considered the lily as the special emblem of the Virgin Mary. Due to its three petals, the Fleur de Lis has also been used to represent the Holy Trinity.

Legend or fact, the Fleur de Lis is a treasured symbol of France.

More French History:

The Arénes de Lutèce: A Roman Amphitheatre in the Middle of Paris
The Mysterious Link Between Paris and an Ancient Fishing Village
Where is Sare?

Posted by: nancycurteman | August 7, 2015

Polish Cuisine Plays a Big Role in “Lethal Lesson”

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Polish cuisine plays a role in my novel, “Lethal Lesson,” soon to be released by Solstice Publishing. In doing research for my book I discovered some interesting facts about Polish cuisine. I learned that it shares many similarities with other Slavic countries. Typical meals are very hearty. It is rich in meat, especially pork, chicken and beef; vegetables especially cabbage and cucumbers; various kinds of noodles; and eggs. Rich thick cream and lots of herbs and spices are mainstays.

In my novel, Detective Josef Molanski introduces main character, Lysi Weston to his favorite Polish traditional dishes. They dine on Bigos, a seasoned “hunter” stew made from sauerkraut with chunks of various meats and sausages. th-3They savor Gołąbki, cabbage parcels stuffed with meat and rice. They wash these calorie-laden dishes down with good Polish vodka which the Poles claim they invented. They say the first production of vodka took place in Poland in the 8th century. The first written mention of the drink was in 1405 by Akta Grodzkie, recorder of court documents in the Polish Palatinate of Sandomierz. Whatever the case, the Poles enjoy good quality vodka.

In “Lethal Lesson” Polish cuisine plays an important role in the mystery puzzle.

More on Poland:

5 Must See Sites in Warsaw, Poland

Posted by: nancycurteman | July 19, 2015

How to Prop up the Middle of your Mystery Novel

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Killer IdeasThe middle of your mystery novel is the longest story segment in your book. Don’t allow it to sink into a sea of insipid verbiage. I’m referring to what occurs when the prose that fills the large space between your novel’s opening and its climax fails to hold your reader’s interest. The most important strategy to prop up the middle of your mystery novel and prevent a disaster is to increase tension. Know your story goal and don’t let the reader lose sight of the goal or the consequences of failure. Try some of these strategies to prop up the middle of your mystery novel.

  • Each time the hero takes a step closer to achieving the story goal have the villains take a step closer to thwarting it.•
  • Consider how a minor character you introduced in the first part of your story might have a bigger presence in your protagonist’s life.
  • Frustrate your protagonist. Everything she tries seems to worsen her position.
  • Add some humorous or romantic scenes.
  • Have your protagonist discover new things about herself—some good things, some bad things.
  • Deluge your protagonist with internal conflicts that impede her conquering external challenges.
  • Introduce a second dead body. Now your protagonist has to deal with two murders. Will there be a third?
  • Vary your chapters and scenes by writing them from different points of view—the sleuth, the murderer, a supporting character.

Make your mystery novel middles interesting enough so your readers will not skip large segments but will savor the scenes as much as they savor the climax.

Posted by: nancycurteman | July 8, 2015

How to Write Realistic Mystery Novel Settings

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As authors we understand it is essential to create realistic settings for our mystery novels. Setting is one of the elements that enables readers to imagine their way into a story. Physical characteristics of a place might include urban or suburban backgrounds, weather, season, time of day, flora and fauna among other elements. How can an author produce these elements of setting? My solution has always been to visit the place in which I set my stories. Not only do I visit the places I take lots of photographs. I try to include myself in the photos because I may want to use them later at book events. Readers like to know authors write from a position of knowledge when they describe settings.Here are some examples of photos I used to write accurate setting in my latest novel, “Murder on the Seine.”

Grace, one of my main characters, experienced vertigo on the
third level of the Eiffel Tower.

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Lysi and Grace, my two main characters, visited
Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries where
they acted out a humorous scene with a French gendarme.

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The Winged Victory in the Louvre was one of Grace’s favorite sites.

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Lapin Agile is an historic Sing-Along cabaret Lysi wanted to share with
Maynard, her Aussie homicide detective.

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Lysi and Maynard attend a CanCan show at the Moulin Rouge where Maynard
enjoyed the CanCan girls too much in Lysi’s opinion.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it is also a tremendous help to Mystery authors who want to use words to describe settings. Try snapping a picture when you want to remember the essence of a place you want to write about.

More Tips on Setting:

7 Ways Authors Can Create Realistic Settings
How to Write Great Settings: Some Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by: nancycurteman | June 29, 2015

How I Use Social Media to Market My Mystery Novels

Bookmark and Share a723ed50e15501d21e3d8a7d88b5d64aPromoting mystery novels or any novel through online social media is one of the most effective and least expensive ways authors can publicize their books today. Here’s how I use social media to market my mystery novels.
  • • I began by focusing on six social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. I signed up for each site for free. Clear directions for how to sign up are listed at each site.
  • • I explored what each site had to offer then chose which ones would fit my needs.
  • • On Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest, I chose to create my own page including photos of my book covers and myself along with space to post photos related to my stories. For example, I posted photos about South Africa for my novel, “Murder Casts a Spell,” photos about France for “Murder on the Seine” and Aussie photos for “Murder Down Under.” For example, I used the cat photo above to advertise “Murder Casts a Spell.” Under the photo I typed “Like a good mystery set in mysterious Africa?” I put a link to my novel sale page on Amazon. Simple as that.
  • I used my author name on these pages and as my Twitter handle.
  • On all the sites I created links to my Amazon Sale Page, my website and my blog site.
  • My publisher created and placed a book trailer video on YouTube. I placed it to on my website.
  • I installed Social Share Buttons as plug-ins on my blog. These buttons allow people to share my page on other social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn where their “friends” can read my blog posts.
  • On Twitter I tweet, retweet and favorite others’ posts, and express thanks when others retweet me.
  • On all my sites I’m careful to relate my content to my books. I avoid controversial political or religious topics.
  • I identified groups on Twitter and Facebook who might be interested in topics related to my book and joined them. Some of my interest targets are: Travel, Mystery Readers, Foreign Food Lovers.
  • I joined several virtual reader communities: Goodreads, AuthorsDen, Shelfari and Red Room. Check them out.

The efforts I’ve made so far to promote my mystery novels are just the beginning. I’m exploring more possibilities that exist in this exciting new marketing tool. If you have social media marketing strategies, I’d love to learn about them.

More Tips:

14 Suggestions for Creating a Marketing Plan
Free Book Marketing Using Email
How to Market Your Novel

Posted by: nancycurteman | June 19, 2015

Mysterious Izarra

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thIzarra is a sweet liqueur made in Bayonne in the French Basque Country. It is a popular liqueur with a mysterious history. Alchemists are credited with the original creation of the liqueur because they accidentally discovered extraction techniques while trying to convert base metals to gold. These alchemists gained the title of scientists because they developed the process of distillation, maceration, and blending. Soon monks refined the liqueur recipe in their effort to invent potions for long life and Izarra as we know it today, was born. Some creative individuals used liqueur recipes to create love potions to peddle to love crazed suitors. Joseph Grattau, a botanist, bought the recipe for the liqueur in the late 19th century and named it Izarra (Basque for “the star”).

There are two varieties of Izarra—yellow and green. Yellow Izarra is created from 32 secret herbs and has an almond flavor. Green Izarra is created from 48 secret herbs and has a peppermint taste. In addition to the herbs used in production, both Izarras consist of alcohol distilled with herbal flavorings, a liquid created by soaking prunes and walnut shells in Armagnac; syrup of sugar and local acacia honey. Infusion is the process used to create herbal liqueurs. The infusionist places herbs in a container and pours hot alcohol over them. The liqueur rests for six months in barrels before it is bottled. Izarra like Chartreuse is still considered a medicinal herbal liqueur.

Izarra is ubiquitous in the French Basque Country. The Basque drink Izarra straight, on ice or in cocktails. They use it in chocolates, sauces and desserts. Characters in my novel, “Murder on the Seine,” learn about this mysterious liqueur.

Today the Izarra distillery is still located in Bayonne, on the river Adour, and is open to visitors.

More about the Basque Country:

Basque Country: The people and Culture
Basque Country: The Culture and The People
The Mystery of the Pear in the Bottle
What Do Ham, Chocolates and Bayonets Have in Common?

Posted by: nancycurteman | June 6, 2015

Adjectives Have a Place in Modern Fiction

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adjectives

Few rules in creative writing are inviolate. This is true of the much-touted view that all adjectives should be eliminated from  writing pieces. I maintain adjectives have an essential role to play in modern fiction. However, I do agree with Mark Twain’s words about the use of adjectives:
When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable.

The operative word is “most.” Of course we need to be selective and employ moderation in using adjectives.

Adjectives are words that modify nouns. Simple examples are small, purple, bald and foolish.These kinds of words are necessary in prose to help provide descriptions for the reader. In short, adjectives give us more information about people, places and things that enable us to understand and form a clearer picture of them. A well-placed and specific adjective can strengthen or clarify an image.

The key is, adjectives should be used only when they highlight something the noun can’t highlight. For example don’t use the adjective “high” to describe a skyscraper. The noun, skyscraper, already conveys the idea of height. On the other hand, a moonlit meadow is a good use of the adjective, “moonlit.” It lets the reader know it’s a clear evening in the meadow.

In narratives, it’s important to use strong adjectives rather than broad, meaningless adjectives such as beautiful, pretty, horrible, pleasant, wonderful. However, broad adjectives do work well in dialogue. “‘I had a wonderful time this evening,” Mary said.” This contributes something important to the story.

Specific adjectives eliminate vagueness when used to describe places, people or things. Use them, but choose strong descriptors that create a vivid image for the reader.

Adjectives have their place in modern fiction. Just remember to choose them carefully and use them sparingly.

Too Much Description, Too Much Explaining
4 Do’s and Don’ts of  ”Show, Don’t Tell.”

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