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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted by: nancycurteman | November 26, 2016

Haight-Ashbury: San Francisco’s Hippie Village

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A visit to Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco’s hippie village, is a trip back to the ‘60s. A stroll down Haight Street will evoke reminders of the hippie counterculture. Here you’ll find fragments of “flower power”—incense-burning, tie-dye-clothing, peace-and-love vibes and maybe a evidence of acid-dropping. In the ‘60s, Haight-Ashbury now called Upper Haight, was a haven for cultural revolutionaries who preached “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

It was a time of major social change. In the middle of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement the hippies preached peaceful revolution. The heart of the movement lasted from about 1964 to 1968 and culminated in 1967’s Summer of Love. During the period over 100,000 young dreamers affectionately nicknamed “flower children” converged on the village to protest against the Viet Nam War and what they considered the materialism of mainstream society. They were joined by artists and psychedelic rock musicians including Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead as well as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is considered the birthplace of the hippie movement marked by peaceful protests and psychedelic experimentation. John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas, wrote a song celebrating the “flower children.” It became a world hit. Scott McKenzie recorded the beautiful “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” and released it in 1967.

On October 6, 1967 the “flower children” staged a mock funeral titled “The Death of the Hippie.” The era was officially ended.

Today Haight-Ashbury is among San Francisco’s most affluent districts. Tourists can visit comedy cafes like Crepes on Cole where Robin Williams, Dana Carvey and Whoopi Goldberg entertained in the 1980s. They can tour boutiques, vintage-clothing shops, book stores, Internet cafes, hip restaurants and beautifully restored Victorian homes. They can purchase remnants of the Haight-Ashbury’s past at shops like Dreams of Kathmandu and the Love of Ganesha. The Grateful Dead house at 710 Ashbury Street is a must see.152281-004-7e218754
Hungry, stop for bangers and mash at Mad Dog in the Fog or crepes at the Squat ‘N’ Gobble or if really starving try the All You Knead but bring a doggie bag.
After a busy day, consider crashing for the night at the Red Victorian Bed and Breakfast, a throwback to an earlier time. Rooms are decorated in themes such as Flower Child Room

On the second Sunday in June you won’t want to miss the celebrated Haight-Ashbury Street Fair.

Upper Haight encompasses the neighborhood surrounding Haight Street between Stanyon and Masonic. The famous corner is named after two early San Francisco leaders, Henry Haight and Munroe Ashbury.

In Haight-Ashbury, many remnants of the era still remain—people in brightly colored tie-dyed clothing, sandals, dashikis, Native yank jewelry, headbands and long beaded necklaces. The village is still a feast for the senses. You’ll hear live guitar music on street corners, see peace signs in shop windows, smell pot wafting from somewhere and maybe get a free hug.

San Francisco is indeed a collection of villages. Haight-Ashbury is one of the most unique.

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Posted by: nancycurteman | November 12, 2016

How to Avoid Wordy Writing

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Wordy writing, sometimes called overwriting, can destroy a good plot by drowning it in excessive detail, repetition, stilted speech and redundancy. Overwriting stops story action. Simplicity is the key to avoiding wordy writing. That’s not to say vivid descriptions and skillful phrasing aren’t important, they have their place in your novel but use them sparingly. Here are some suggestions to avoid wordy writing:

•Limit your adjectives and adverbs. Good writers use strong nouns and verbs.
•Avoid overuse of participles (words ending in ‘ing’). Use them to vary sentence structures but in moderation.
•Write realistic dialogue. Don’t write character conversations that are stilted or too formal. Dialogue should consist of short sentences and sentence fragments pared with interruptions, beats, actions and some tags when needed for clarity.
•Metaphors and similes can enhance a story but too many will derail a reader from the basic plot. Use metaphors and similes when you want to make an important point only.
•Don’t use needlessly complex words or phrases. Stick to plain, easy-to-follow language. Readers are not interested in your Thesaurus.
•Use only enough technical and historical event descriptions to enable your readers to gain a feel for your plot. Don’t bury them in forgettable vocabulary and background.
•Use only as much description as is relevant to your plot. Don’t embellish or wax poetic. Include only what’s needed to paint a picture of your character or setting.
•Don’t use two or three descriptors when one will do.
•Don’t drown your reader in long detailed backstory for every character.
• Describe location as part of the point-of-view character’s experience, not as a separate author narrative.

Avoid wordy writing and opt for simplicity. Your readers will thank you.

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A well-written novel is a story not just a collection of disconnected events. In a story events flow through a character’s plan to achieve a goal. She will meet obstacles as she works to achieve her goal. These obstacles must not  pop up out of nowhere. This will poison your novel. Obstacles must relate to the character’s efforts and they must impact on her plans or produce some kind of growth in her. Magic and divine intervention should not play a role in overcoming a long, exhausting series of obstacles.

Disconnected events do not show how a character achieves her goals. They force a protagonist to face and overcome one obstacle after another without showing a path to progress. The character simply reacts. She must also plan, evaluate and adjust her plan then move forward to tackle the next obstacle. Allow your character’s plan to fail occasionally due to external circumstances or her own weaknesses or inappropriate application of her skills or strengths.

Make sure your novel consists of scenes that flow and are connected to previous scenes. A collection of disconnected events is not a novel.


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Posted by: nancycurteman | October 9, 2016

Sydney Ducks on San Francisco’s Barbary Coast?

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th-2What do ducks from Sydney, Australia have to do with San Francisco’s infamous Barbary Coast? To answer this question we will first need to learn a bit about the history of this unique San Francisco neighborhood.

One author in 1886 described the Barbary Coast this way:

“The Barbary Coast is the haunt of the low and the vile of every kind. The petty thief, the house burglar, the tramp, the whore monger, lewd women, cut-throats, murderers, are all found here.”
From Lights and Shades of San Francisco by Benjamin Estelle Lloyd, 1876

Encompassing parts of Chinatown, Jackson Square and North Beach, the old Barbary Coast stretched from Montgomery to Stockton along Pacific Street with branches on Kearny and Grant Avenue. One of the most dangerous blocks was on Pacific between Kearny and Montgomery labeled “Terrific Street.” It was the child of the 1849 California Gold Rush which brought thousands of opportunists into the Bay Area.

The area got its name in 1860 due to its similarity to the notorious Barbary Coast in Africa.

The Barbary Coast was a haven for carousers. They could choose from a variety of unsavory establishments—bars, dives, gambling halls, and houses of prostitution. Some of the worst cribs (as houses of prostitution were called) were located on what is now called Maiden Lane.

Serious drinkers could choose from a multitude of bars on every street including one of the toughest ones in San Francisco history, The Whale. The bars were frequented by criminals as well as locals. Black Bart, the famous highway bandit hung out at Martin and Horton’s where cheap liquor flowed like water.

After the great earthquake and fire, the Barbary Coast became somewhat touristy with variety shows designed to attract stars like actress Sarah Bernhardt , ballerina Anna Pavlova and poet John Masefield. New dance-floors gave birth to fashionable dance crazes such as the turkey trot, chicken glide and bunny hug.

Now to the Sydney Ducks, a name given to a gang of criminal Aussie immigrants. They favored looting and were known to use arson as a th-6means to ply their trade. They would light fires and loot the warehouses and stores while everyone else was off fighting the fires. Another of their pastimes was collecting payments from shopkeepers to ensure that their stores wouldn’t burn.

A citizen vigilante group formed to rid the area of the Ducks. If they spotted a Duck stealing they caught him, tried him in their vigilante court and hanged him a few hours later. After only three lynchings the Ducks got the message and waddled out of town.

The San Francisco Examiner under the leadership of William Randolph Hearst launched the crusade to clean up the old Barbary Coast. By 1957 most of the sex clubs were gone.

You can take a walking tour through the historic sites of the Old Barbary Coast. Bronze medallions and arrows set in the sidewalk guide you along the trail drawing you into a world of gold seekers, shanghiers and sinners.


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