Book Research Road Trip

writing_wine_logo2Lately, I’ve been plotting out two new books (more on plotting in a later post). If my book isn’t going to be science fiction or fantasy, I want to set it somewhere I’ve been. I’ve never been one for creating “fake” towns- although it’s definitely a good option for some.

Much like Stephen King uses Maine, I have been wanting to use areas of Arizona- despite its bad reputation- there are actually some amazing people and places in the state… a state that is one of the most geographically diverse… there’s low desert, high pine forests and just about everything in between. There are small towns and large cities. I like choosing areas I can research easily- because you should ALWAYS research your setting. You’d think that would be a no-brainer.

So what do you need for a research road trip? Your camera, and a notepad… aside from your necessities like gas money, clothes and a place to stay.

Chances are, you don’t live in your setting. Maybe you did once… like me. I chose to venture to Flagstaff, AZ in the autumn, when and where, I want to set my next book. I went to high school in Flag… and my mother still lives there. But I wanted to refresh my memory. So, I started to plan out a trip. From Vegas to Flagstaff is 240 miles. I talked to my step-dad, who has lived there since 1974 (five years before I was born) and made sure he’d be around to answer questions.

Once I was there, I asked him to drive me around some of the older neighborhoods with really cool craftsman type houses. I had one in mind to write about so I made sure I snapped a few photos of it. Then, more driving around to take photos and notes. This was a three-day process… talking to restaurant owners, people, and just taking in the daily life. This is the fun part! Eat at a local favorite cafe, visit some popular boutiques, and talk to people. I know, strange concept! Enjoy the day life AND the night life.


Flagstaff is what I call a big-small town. It’s not the ideal “Small Town” with its population of about 60,000 but it’s still very quaint, has a great artist community and lots of history. It’s also one of the most scenic and picturesque areas in Arizona. It’s has a few quirks that are good to know- like almost 40 trains pass through town each day… including Amtrak who will hold up traffic downtown for the duration of loading and unloading passengers.

If you don’t know small details like this… your story may fall flat- and not just to the people who KNOW the area. However, those of you who want to set your books in places far and away… there are still many resources and ways to get the overall feel- and no, I don’t mean go to Wikipedia. Find a friend who has been there- or has lived there. We don’t all have those expense accounts to travel… but the more in-depth your setting is- the more intriguing your book will be. Research can mean spending a bit of money to get that full effect… don’t be afraid to take that extra step and make the most out of your planning.


00winerWINE: Naked Grape Pinot Grigio

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Writing on Wine: Author Self Loathing

self_loathing001I’m going to start this series off with something a little more personal. There’s this ritual I’ve gone through once a year for the past five or so… I write a book- or even the draft of a book- I take a deep breath and then start to panic about what I do next. Then, I start to hate myself, and everything I’ve ever written. I’ve come to call it author self-loathing. It’s hard to explain to people who don’t write why this is such a big deal… most of the people in my life think I’m crazy to want to write so much and I’m sure it drives them more than crazy when I go into this fit of despair.

This past month, I finished the third and final installment of the Wasted series… I use the term finish in the LOOSEST of senses because it’s just a second draft, it hasn’t even been okay’d by my publisher, there’s no release date and it needs pretty much all the editing ever… I mean, I may have already come up with a cover concept- so what?

However, I still feel like I ended a story line… the story line. THE series I’ve spent five years writing. Ending a book is a combination of panic, relief, love and hate… it’s a conundrum of feelings that every author has to figure out once it’s written. So… what happens to me once I finish a novel and send it to my editor?



This happens every time. I immediately begin making notes in one of my 10 notebooks about what I did wrong, possible plot holes and characters who need work. I don’t even consider the 100 thousand plus words I wrote and the months it took. I seriously debate writing my editor and telling her to just not bother reading it… wasting not only my time, but the time of close friends I’ve managed to annoy with my plot line discussions. Logical.


self_loathing003Finishing a book is kind of like PMSing… suddenly I just want anything and everything deep fried, covered in chocolate, or dripping with cheese to be in my face. I like to call this game the 4000 calorie hatred spiral. I don’t know why this happens- probably because there’s a level of depression associated with the lack of self-confidence in finishing a draft and waiting for your editor to tell you if it sucks or not… or I just want an excuse to tackle half of my dessert board on Pinterest.


self_loathing006There’s nothing like a slightly inconvenienced author being forced into a social setting and asked to think about something other than her writing . I used to think this was just me being a bitch, but turns out… a lot of authors I’ve talked to hate dealing with people- especially right after the massive brain energy spent on writing a book. I don’t mean to make spending time with my loved ones and friends sound like a chore… it’s not. In small doses- everything is fine… but throw me into a large gathering or have someone come to me with their own problems and I just want to run away screaming. It’s not because I’m unhappy- I’m actually really stoked that I accomplished something major… and I show it with chronic bitch face.


self_loathing007Why, why WHY doesn’t anyone else get what I’m going through? Because… they can’t. No one can- not even other authors. The need to be alone, the compulsive want to over-analyze my own word, the worry, the panic, the sheer anxiety. Sure, this screams therapist… but even she wouldn’t get it! So, I just kind of sit back and glare at everyone… convinced that’s it’s them- not me.


self_loathing008Yeah, it happens. That mixture of jealousy, impatience, mild narcissism and borderline crazy isn’t something an author can stop… I get into this place where I feel like:


I feel like there isn’t much of a place to fit in with a few contract killing lunatics with a pension for wine… then a few will come along and prove me wrong. SEE ALSO: Rebekah Crane. Sometimes I wonder if I’d even be half the author I am without her guidance.


self_loathing011I cry… for no reason. My mother used to tell me only to cry when you’re sad, happy or physically hurting. NOT THE CASE HERE. Crying because you’re frustrated is the biggest waste of time and I love doing it. It’s kind of like emotional cutting. It basically solves nothing- it gives me a headache and makes my husband think I’m bat shit cray… but at least he’s in training to deal with it. I call this portion the wedding vow test.


self_loathing010What’s this sound like? I’m a shitty writer who needs instant gratification… not all the time, but just now, in this moment when I finished something big. OKAY, NOW WHAT? Give me fame, and fortune… and a swift kick in the CUNextTuesday. Nothing happens overnight, but when you finish a book, it seems like it should. No joke… it’s like I lean back and expect David Bowie- complete in Labyrinth costume- to appear and grant me three wishes for finishing a book that no one is even required to like. When it doesn’t happen… I hate myself. It’s fine. #ITSFINE


self_loathing012Write something else: much to the frustration of my husband, I just start writing something else. Bless his heart for putting up with me. He’s really good about supporting my dream, but he will flat out tell me I can’t write all day every day… HA… like hell I can’t. I mean I CAN… I just shouldn’t. For the sake of those closest to me… however, I did celebrate the ending of one series with the start of another. Something different. Different genre, different writing style (kind of) and it made me feel better. It will make me feel better until I finish it. Then… this shit starts all over again…


So, now I’ve gone through (yet again) another series of self loathing… and with the help of my friends and family (and watching the Stepford Wives remake)- I’ve made it through. I’m now smiling… because I accomplished stuff. Now, I’ll start obsessing over cover art, changing cover art and re-branding. #ITSFINE In the end, I’ve still written another book.

No wine pairing for this post… however, everyone likes a good Sangria.

Support my writing and buy my first book: ELEGANTLY WASTED

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The Dark Carnival Cover Reveal

Last year, I had the pleasure of working with Pen and Muse for their Dark Carnival short story showcase. The idea came from the super sweet and talented Jolene Haley who decided to hold an open call for scary stories to post during the month of September and October.

This year, PM decided to turn the entire project into an anthology eBook and approached me to design the cover! Today, I can finally reveal my work and tell you a little more about the project and authors… and yes, my short is in the book.


The air has grown crisp – October is here. With October comes autumn leaves, apple cider, and the siren call of The Dark Carnival. 

Will you answer its call? Will you heed the beckon?

 The doors are opening.

 Will you leave with your life?

In this anthology, several authors and illustrators explore the dark and hidden dangers that lie within a carnival that has come to town. But it is no ordinary carnival. It’s The Dark Carnival.

And when The Dark Carnival comes to town, there’s no promise that anyone can leave…alive.

Edited by: Jolene Haley, Kristen Jett, and Jessi Shakarian

Contributors include: Kat Daemon, Kristen Strassel, Julie Hutchings, C. Elizabeth Vescio, Mark Matthews, Brian W. Taylor, Kim Culpepper, Eli Constant, Mari Wells, J. Elizabeth Hill, Nicole R. Taylor, Ashly Nagrant, Kristin Hanson, Calyn Morgan, Tawney Bland, Roselle Kaes, Ken Mooney, Emily McKeon, Bobby Salomons, Ezekiel Conrad, Sheila Hall, Michelle Davis, Lucas Hargis, Vanessa Henderson, Ryan Bartlett, Debra Kristi, Jessi Esparza, T.A. Brock, Ruth Shedwick, Brian LeTendre, Amy Trueblood, Gregory Carrico, Jamie Corrigan, Kate Michael, Tyle Anne Snell, Alicia Audrey, Meghan Schuler, Jamie Adams, Wulf Francu Godgluck, J.C. Michael, Suzy G., Kristin Rivers, and Claire C. Riley.
*Final lineup subject to change



About Pen & Muse Press

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Writing on Wine


Cheers to autumn. I hate pumpkin spice, but I love my fall season. So, in celebration, I will be writing about writing.

Starting in October, I’m running a weekly series of posts about writing, books, indie authors, and the whole process I go through- as chaotic as it might be at times. To even out this bumpy ride, I’ll suggest a certain bottle of wine for each post… urging you to drink responsibly… at home… where all the rest of us authors work on our alcoholism.

So far, the topic lineup includes:

  • Author Self Loathing: Finishing A Series
  • The Genesis of Wasted: Rise of the Fairholms
  • My Writing Process: Indie Publishing and hiring and Editor
  • Parental Guidance is Just a Suggestion // the four mothers of Wasted
  • Writing Crazy: Mental Illnesses in an Action/Dramedy
  • My Writing Process: Outlining, Plotting, Development
  • Guest Post: Fan Fiction: Wasted through the eyes of Candis Phlegm.
  • Designing Book Covers and Graphics
  • Elegance, Inc. and a Day with Kat Fairholm
  • Guest Post: Adapting Wasted by Jaime Burchardt

I am lining up a few guests bloggers, and am more than happy to accept other guests at this time. If you have a topic you’d like to tackle please feel free to contact me and I’ll give you my requirements for posting.

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