Posted by: nancycurteman | May 24, 2017

A New Lysi Weston Mystery Novel

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Travel and mysteries are two of my passions. So of course I write mystery novels and set them in places I’ve visited around the world. My amateur sleuth Lysi Weston, a corporate trainer, has solved murders in Australia, South Africa, France, and Montana as she traveled in her job.

Many of my readers have suggested that I set a story in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, San Francisco. I’ve taken their advice. My newest novel, “Murder Lurks in the Fog,” set in the city by the Bay, will be available by mid June.

In “Murder Lurks in the Fog,” Lysi Weston returns home to San Francisco for a few weeks of well-earned vacation from her taxing job as a corporate management trainer. Her plans to share a quiet respite with Australian Detective Maynard Christie are thwarted when she learns that a close friend has gone missing. Lysi, with her proclivity for sleuthing, tries to unravel the mysterious disappearance. The situation becomes more complicated when Weston discovers a connection between her missing friend and the murder of a beautiful young socialite. She drags her earthy, Harlem-born colleague, Grace Wright, along when she embarks on a labyrinth of trails that leads her to suspect a jealous husband, a resentful stepdaughter and the son of a vicious mob boss. A second suspicious death muddies Lysi’s investigation effort as she becomes the target of a sociopathic hit man.

Along with murder investigation, Weston will guide readers, along with Christie and Wright, through her favorite San Francisco sites—some well known to tourists and others known only to locals.

I will let all of you know the moment “Murder Lurks in the Fog” becomes available both in print and ebook formats.

More Travel Mysteries:

Murder Down Under
Murder Casts a Spell
Murder on the Seine


Posted by: nancycurteman | May 14, 2017

Johnny Foley’s Irish House

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San Francisco is famous for it’s international restaurant scene. You name a country and you will probably be able to locate a restaurant that serves the excellent cuisine of that country. Here’s an example: If you would like to experience a wee bit of Ireland in San Francisco, go to Johnny Foley’s Irish House. Established in 1998 it is one of San Francisco’s quintessential gathering places. Located just steps from historic Union Square, it’s an authentic example of what makes the Irish pub truly unique. This is the reason I chose it as a setting for several scenes in my new mystery novel, Murder Lurks in the Fog.

My characters sit at one of the tables in Johnny Foley’s dining area sipping a brew while analyzing details of a homicide investigation. You too, can lounge at a table or sit at the friendly bar and chat with the kicky bartenders and other
patrons while enjoying one of about twenty draught beers. You can also choose wines, Irish whiskeys or a variety of cocktails. You might even catch a Warriors game or World Cup Soccer competition on the giant screen over the bar. The friendly atmosphere makes you feel like you’re on the set of a “Cheers” television program.

The food is fabulous! Chose from a large variety of Irish delights such as Cottage Pie, Bangers & Mash, Steak &
Mushroom Pie and Irish Stew. For dessert try a Chocolate Hangover, Irish Soda Bread & Butter Pudding or Pumpkin Crème Brulée.

After dinner, head down to the cellar for great musical entertainment.

If you come to San Francisco, put Johnny Foley’s Irish House on your list of must see sites.

More Travel Tips:

Taste a Bit of Ireland in San Francisco

Posted by: nancycurteman | April 30, 2017

How to Format a Novel

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Every author needs to know how to format a novel. Of course this knowledge is essential if you choose to self-publish because the full responsibility for correct formatting will rest with you. But it is also important if you choose to work with an indie publisher or even a midsized publisher because you need to look for correct formatting when you proof your novel. Here are some formatting strategies:

Margins Your book has two types of margins: Exterior (top, bottom, and outer edge) and the “gutter.” Exterior margins should be set at one half to three-quarter inch. The “gutter” should be set at one inch so when the book is bound, all the inside print will be visible.

Font Most publishers and readers prefer black, twelve point, Times New Roman font. Use a larger font size for your title and chapter headings.

Page Numbers Insert your page number in a footer at the bottom of each page. Place them on the outside of each page (left side on even-numbered pages, right side on odd pages). Do not put page numbers on the title page.

Headers A header usually consists of the author’s name on the left side of even-numbered pages and the book title on the right side of odd-numbered pages. Don’t place headers on the title page or other pages that are not part of the actual story.

Title and Author Page Center your title about half way down the page. Double space and add your author name.

Copyright Place the copyright page on the reverse side of the title page. Along with the copyright include statements that no part of the book may be reproduced, etc. You can also add your ISBN number and contact information on this page.

Chapters Begin a new chapter on an odd-numbered new page. Use bold text and type the chapter number about one-third down from the top. Skip a couple of line spaces and begin the text of the chapter.

Scene breaks Insert two or three blank lines for new scenes. Center a symbol or set of symbols of some kind in the blank space—# or *** or •••

Justification Justified text adds a tailored look to your novel. Line up both the right and left edges with hyphenation to avoid one word ending up as the only word on an otherwise blank page.

Indents New paragraphs need half-inch indentions.

Formatting your novel is pretty straightforward and essential to ensure the presentation of your novel will not include any errors that will distract your readers from enjoying your story.

More tips:

6 Ways to Create Powerful Verbs
How to Add Creative Transitions to Your Novel

Posted by: nancycurteman | April 17, 2017

Small Details That Can Make a Big Difference

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Mystery Novels consist of some basic elements—protagonist, antagonist, plot, setting, conflict and resolution. Most mystery writers understand these elements and can fold them into an interesting, well-written story. However, authors may run into small uncertainties about the proper way to write some small details. In this post I’ve assembled a few small details that can make a big difference in a story. You may have wondered about some of them.

  • The man is five feet tall or The man is five foot tall. Which is correct? The answer is that it depends. In general a simple test can tell us which one is correct. Nothing is 6 yard long, it is 6 yards long. And we do not say that there are twelve inch in one foot, but twelve inches in one foot. Thus we would say, The man is five feet tall. But, consider this. We would never say “a 12 inches ruler.” we’d say “a 12 inch ruler.” When using the term as a compound adjective it does sound better to say the 5-foot-tall man. When using an adjective modifier, use foot.
  • A character shakes his head or nods. What is the difference? Noddingthe head is an up and down movement and means yes or I agree or approve. People nod off when sleepy.
    Shaking the head is a sideways movement and suggests a negative response such as “No.” People also shake their heads to show disapproval, disdain, despair or disappointment.
  • Italics or quotation marks for titles. Where do you use them? Generally speaking italics are used for titles of large works, book, movie and television show titles.
    Quotation marks are used for sections of works—chapter titles, magazine articles, poems and short stories.
  • A word about ellipses. An ellipsis is a set of three periods preceded and followed by one space ( … ). An ellipsis can indicate an omission in a quote, trailing off of a thought (I thought that … It’s not important) or hesitation (I want to … I mean … it’s like this … ). One further point about the ellipsis. If it is at the end of a sentence, don’t forget to add a fourth dot for the period.

Correct use of these small details could make a big difference in the quality of your writing.

More Tips:
Writing Craft Rules: Never Say Never
5 Elements of Writing Craft
7 Ways to Make Your Writing Clear and Concise
6 Most Misused Punctuation Marks In Fiction Writing

Posted by: nancycurteman | March 24, 2017

Lysi’s San Francisco

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Lysi Weston is the main character in my travel mystery series. Her romantic “crush” is Aussie homicide detective, Maynard Christie and her best friend is Harlem-born Grace Wright. Weston, an international corporate trainer travels the world in her job. My mystery novels follow her on journeys from Australia, Southern Africa and France. My newest novel takes her home to San Francisco and follows her as she roams through some of the famous and not so famous sites of her beloved City by the Bay. In my book, Weston shares San Francisco sites with you, her fans.

Lysi lives in a condo on Franciscan Street near Coit Tower. She often walks her German shepherd up the nearby Filbert Steps. The 377 steps pass through quaint cottages and lovely gardens and end at Coit Tower. At the top of Telegraph Hill she takes Maynard into the 210-foot Coit Tower to see the lovely fresco murals depicting the history of everyday life of San Franciscans.

One of Lysi’s favorite places for a relaxing respite from her busy days is in San Francisco in Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden. She takes Maynard for a cup of jasmine tea among clouds of pink cherry blossoms and a rainbow of blooming camellias and azaleas against a background of lush green shrubbery. A five-tiered Buddhist pagoda stands tall in the background as fish float in a stream below the teahouse.

A walk across the Golden Gate Bridge is truly a San Francisco experience. Lysi takes Maynard across the windy bridge. On the Marin side of the span at Vista Point the Lone Sailor Memorial, a life-size bronze statue of a sailor gazes back at San Francisco before sailing out the Golden Gate. About 1.5 million men and women shipped out from San Francisco during World War II to fight the war in the Pacific.

The bridge was designed to sway with strong winds off the Pacific. It can move up to 27 feet. The bridge with its two elegant art deco towers owes its orange vermillion color to the fact that it made it easier to see in fog and blended with the surrounding countryside.

Lysi loves ice cream. She shares that love with her colleague, Grace Wright, by taking her on the Powell Street cable car to San Francisco’s famous  Ghirardelli Square. The iconic clock tower that stands sentry over the famous square was built in 1916 and patterned after the tower of France’s Chateau de Blois. Lysi and Grace enter under the Ghirardelli arch into the historic Square and pass beneath a blue sign with big white letters that read, The Original Chocolate Manufactory. Old-fashioned chocolate processing equipment lines the brick wall in the rear of the shop—a Melanger, Chocolate Mills and a large oven for roasting beans. Tourists from all over the world rub shoulders with locals, old and young as they savor the delicious ice cream.

Other notable San Francisco sites Lysi shares with her friends are Union Square, Chinatown and Buena Vista—famous as the inventor of Irish Coffee.

As you read my new novel, imagine yourself exploring these famous San Francisco sites as Lysi Weston shares them with her story friends while investigating the murder of a beautiful San Francisco socialite.


More Tips:

5 San Francisco Activities Dear to San Franciscans

The San Francisco Village of Chinatown

North Beach: An Historic San Francisco Village

A Bushman in San Francisco?


Posted by: nancycurteman | February 18, 2017

5 Ways to Launch Your New Novel

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Now The Fanfare

Now The Fanfare


The launch of a new novel is not only a good way to present your latest book to the world of readers, it is also a great way to promote the books you’ve written over the years. Here are 5 simple ways to launch your new novel with flair and fanfare.

Cross-Promotion is like networking. It is basically enlisting the help of other authors and reciprocating. They advertise your new book on their blog or Facebook pages and you do the same for them.

Launch your book at an event. Consider a library or social club of some sort. Do a presentation about your novel and its characters. Bring some first editions along for purchase at a discount and donate a copy to the library. Don’t forget to bring copies of previously written novels.

Preview your book blurb with a cover image on your Facebook page and on your blog. Mention that you would appreciate help spreading the word about your book.

A book trailer video is an effective way to launch your new novel. If you’re a bit of a techie you can create your own. I had one created for me by a friend. Also consider a professional for the job.

Amazon Marketing Service Ads are very reasonable and reach a large number of readers. Simply develop a “hook” or short sentence about your story that will grab reader interest. Add a few keywords that will trigger people’s searches and you’re in business.

By the way, don’t forget your email list. Make it as long as possible and keep it up-to-date. Launch your book with these readers first. They are your fans.

More Tips:
14 Suggestions for Creating a Marketing Plan
Free Book Marketing Using Email



Posted by: nancycurteman | February 5, 2017

Three Highlights of San Francisco ‘s Lands End

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th-2Located at the Northwestern corner of San Francisco is Lands End. It is part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area. There are hiking trails to explore and beautiful views to enjoy.

An afternoon at Lands End might begin with lunch at Louis’ a modest brown hip-roofed building with brick trim. A blue oval-shaped sign with gold letters hangs above the door. It reads Louis’ Restaurant, Family Owned Since 1937. Come early because it gets crowded around noon. Pick one of the ocean view booths at the back of the restaurant for the best views in the house. You will zone out on the stunning scenes. Watch the fog thin and lift uncovering the beauty of the play of sunlight sparkling on the waves of an incredibly blue Pacific Ocean. Watch see sea lions frolicking on Seal Rocks and marvel at the Sutro Bath ruins below. The food is good. I recommend the homemade minestrone soup with sourdough bread or if you want a real fat feast, order the fish and chips. Don’t leave Louis’ without tasting their pie à la mode.

Lunch over, pause at the white picket fence adjacent to the restaurant to gaze at Ocean Beach before heading down to the remnants of the Sutro Baths, a trip back in time. Imagine men and women in woolen bathing costumes that extended from neck to knees swimming in one of the six enclosed saltwater swimming pools of the once lavish bathhouse. These pools were flushed with ocean tides.

Take the steep steps down to the baths passing wind twisted cypresses and blankets of pink ice plant blossoms along the way. At the old Sutro Baths’ ruins balance on the craggy walls then explore a secret cave on the northwest side of the baths. Inside the cave, briny mist smells of seaweed and tiny sea creatures. Listen to the ominous roar of the ocean pounding against and under the rocks supporting the cave. Peer at the crashing waves through one of several small apertures in the cave. The Sutro Baths burned down in 1966.

Leave the baths using the more leisurely ramp trail and head to the historic Cliff House.

In the Cliff House find a table in the Sutros Bar and Lounge on the second floor. Surrounded by soft ocean colors and natural wood sip a traditional Ramos Fizz and gaze out the two-story floor to ceiling windows at the foaming tongue of waves lapping at the sensuous curves of coastline where sand meets ocean.

The Cliff House, built in 1863 exudes a feeling of elegance as you sit where the wealthy Hearst, Stanford and Crocker families once dined. The Cliff House like the Phoenix rose from its destruction three times. In 1887 severely damaged when the schooner Parallel loaded with dynamite ran aground and exploded on the rocks below it rose again only to be burned in 1894 and again in 1907. Today it still stands in all its glory.

As you watch the sky redden and the sun begin its journey into the sea turning the water purple, consider it a day well spent.

More Travel Tips:

5 San Francisco Activities Dear to San Franciscans

The San Francisco Village of Chinatown

North Beach: An Historic San Francisco Village

Posted by: nancycurteman | January 23, 2017

How Authors Use Foreshadowing

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thForeshadowing is a strategy used by authors to prepare readers for something that will occur later in the story without revealing what that something will be.

Foreshadowing is meant to build anticipation in the minds of readers thus increasing tension. It can advance the plot by linking the present to future or past events. Another form of foreshadowing often used in mystery novels is called red herrings in which the author plants clues meant to mislead the reader into thinking something will occur that doesn’t. This leads to a surprise culmination. Foreshadowing can appear anywhere in the story—at the start or middle of scenes and chapters—as long as it enables readers to develop expectations about future story events.

Effective foreshadowing takes some skill. One strategy is to take a story event and explore what methods of foreshadowing are suggested by the event itself. A good foreshadow will prepare readers for what’s to come without allowing them to guess the plot twist but ensuring they remember the foreshadow later with an Oh yeah! A foreshadow should occur as early as possible especially for a big event.

An author has many tools in her toolbox for creating foreshadowing. Here are some examples:

Character dialogue-The character mentions something untoward but not obvious to another character.

Character actions-Both protagonists and antagonists can engage in a subtle activity that will turn out to be predictive of an event.

Description of settings-Weather conditions, towns, buildings, geographical locations can all be used to foreshadow.

Chapter titles-Consider a title like The Last Breath or No Escape.

Pre-scenes-Small scenes that imply there is something spectacular to come later. These are effective foreshadowing techniques.

Foreshadowing is an excellent strategy for creating consistent cause and effect that results in apprehension, suspense and surprise on the part of readers.

More Tips:

What is Tension in a Novel?
7 ways to add tension to any kind of novel

Posted by: nancycurteman | January 10, 2017

The Tenderloin, San Francisco’s Juvenile Delinquent

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lsAffectionately nicknamed the ‘Loin, San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, bordered by Union Square on the east and the Civic Center on the west, and Mission Street on the south, Pine Street on the north, is one of the most densely populated areas in the city. Over 30,000 people are crowded into 60 square blocks. Many of the people are homeless. A large number of Tenderloin dwellers are outlaw types. The area has always been a magnet for drug dealers, prostitutes, hustlers and people who like to walk on the wild side. It has a history of vice—gamblers, bootleggers, speakeasies and pornographic movie houses. In fact, the famous Tessie Wall opened her first brothel in the ‘Loin at 211 O’Farrell Street in 1898.

There is an upside to the Tenderloin’s bad reputation. It is the one area of San Francisco that has not succumbed to gentrification and rents have not skyrocketed. This has brought in new immigrants including Indians, Arabs, Vietnamese, Chinese and Moroccans. Many of these newcomers have opened restaurants making the Tenderloin a good place to find authentic Southeast Asian food. Other inhabitants include African-Americans, Latinos, Filipinos and Russians. The large migration of Vietnamese prompted the city to designate a section of the Tenderloin as “Little Saigon.”

The architecture of the area is similar to working class neighborhoods in mid west cities consisting of three and four-story buildings with exterior fire escapes dangling from the walls. It is said these buildings house the world’s largest collection of single-room occupancy hotels

The Tenderloin’s claim to fame is that it is the most dangerous district in San Francisco. However, it can also claim some famous inhabitants. Academy Award winning director Frank Capra lived in the Drake Hotel in the 1920s. The Cadillac Hotel was home to Jerry Garcia. Mohammed Ali hung out in the Tenderloin. Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and Gary Mulligan played at The Black Hawk in the ‘60s. Dive bars and night spots abound in the neighborhood along with O’Farrell’s the Bay Area’s most famous strip joint. The historic gay bar, Aunt Charlie’s still exists today.

The Tenderloin is worth a visit, but you may not want to pass through it alone at night.

More Travel Tips:

The San Francisco Village of Chinatown
North Beach: An Historic San Francisco Village
Sydney Ducks on San Francisco’s Barbary Coast?
Haight-Ashbury: San Francisco’s Hippie Village

Posted by: nancycurteman | December 30, 2016

How to Avoid Over Describing

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Excellent description is a gift to readers. It enables them to enter the world an author has created. Over description clogs a book’s pages with useless words that prevent reader participation in the story resulting in boredom. Here are some points that will help to distinguish the difference between good description and empty rhetoric that will enable you to avoid over describing.
  • Description is not simply a decorative feature to fill pages and an author’s desire to sound like a literary giant. Tone it down. Good description provides imagery but doesn’t become flowery.
  • Be careful to sort out the telling details from the lifeless ones. A barrage of unnecessary description can make salient details disappear
  • Description is not meant to provide a reader with a picture that matches exactly the picture the writer has. Give readers leeway to envision the scene. Your description needs to be open-ended enough to evoke images in the reader’s mind.
  • Description must have purpose or leave it out. It should move the story forward or slow down the pacing, reveal character and heighten emotions and senses.
  • Ideally description should provide insight into a character’s inner life, motivation, drive.
  • Description is most effective if it comes from a character’s viewpoint, is colored by that character’s perspective and is part of the action.
  • Description should be subtle and blend with dialogue and character actions. “Nearly home … ” The house materialized through the cloud cover in the distance. She forced her exhausted legs forward, teeth shattering, chest aching. “I can make it.”
  • Give unique salient details that enable your reader to imagine. Not: The child wore a sad expression and a dirty dress. Try: The child’s sad eyes were the first thing Susan noticed, that and the torn hem of the dirt-stained dress brought tears to Susan’s eyes
  • In describing a person don’t simply describe clothing, a painful mark of immature writing. Reveal less obvious details. Not: She wore a white sweatshirt, workout pants and running shoes. Try: The white sweatshirt she wore was frayed at the neck and cuffs. Her shoes had no laces and her running pants dragged the ground as she shuffled along the path. She was overweight.
  • Use lots of nouns and verbs and few adjectives and adverbs.

Good description enhances a story. Over description destroys it. Avoid over describing.

More Tips:

Adjectives Have a Place in Modern Fiction
Too Much Description, Too Much Explaining

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