When Writers Literally Take You Away

Today, I wanted to share with you the results of research I did completely online. When you’re a writer, especially just starting out (or not raking in the big dough, like most of us), you can’t afford to visit every place you write about. I did go to Lousiville to research it for Exactly Like You, the first Cupid’s Cafe book. And when I arrived I saw a sign directing drivers to Taylorsville State Park.

A big chunk of my book takes place there (a site I’ve never actually been to). I could use my imagination for some of it–I live in West Virginia, also part of Appalachia–and I have been camping before. Other parts, I did extensive research on Kentucky’s state park system web site. Can you tell which is which? Not if I did my job well. Most importantly, after reading the excerpt, do you feel like you know what it’s like to visit the lake in Taylorsville?

Excerpt from Exactly Like You

They drove the forty-minute trip to Taylorsville Lake State Park in silence. The sun began to peek over the horizon as they pulled into the campground. Roxie had never been much of an outdoors type of person, but this view. She could just make out mist, nearly dissipated, as it blanketed the marine blue lake. Dotted throughout the water, covered in trees bursting with green leaves, were small islands. Aidan checked them

Aidan checked them in, because of course he’d had the foresight to book them what the clerk called a “primitive” site. That didn’t sound in any way appealing. As they walked back out to the truck, Roxie cleared her throat. “What does ‘primitive’ mean? Couldn’t we upgrade to like cave-dwelling?”

As they walked back out to the truck, Roxie cleared her throat. “What does ‘primitive’ mean? Couldn’t we upgrade to like cave-dwelling?”“It means we’re using a tent, not an RV. We’ll be fine, Rox. Sit back and enjoy yourself.”

“It means we’re using a tent, not an RV. We’ll be fine, Rox. Sit back and enjoy yourself.”That seemed unlikely. Besides her burning crush on Aidan, she didn’t do primitive. She liked all the conveniences of home. She wasn’t sure what they would do with themselves for the next four days and didn’t want to think about what she’d like to do.

That seemed unlikely. Besides her burning crush on Aidan, she didn’t do primitive. She liked all the conveniences of home. She wasn’t sure what they would do with themselves for the next four days and didn’t want to think about what she’d like to do.They drove to the camp and Aidan began to set up the tent. Roxie sat on the back of

They drove to the camp and Aidan began to set up the tent. Roxie sat on the back of truck bed and broke into her snack stash. She was popping M&Ms into her mouth when he stood up and put his hands at the small of his back, like it was hurting. “I could use a little help here.”“Oh, sure. I’m sort of useless outside, but I’ll do my best.” She hopped down and headed over to where he stood.

“Oh, sure. I’m sort of useless outside, but I’ll do my best.” She hopped down and headed over to where he stood. He went back to the truck, pulled out a Ziploc gallon bag and put the M&Ms inside. “You have to store every bit of food or you’ll attract wildlife.”

He went back to the truck, pulled out a Ziploc gallon bag and put the M&Ms inside. “You have to store every bit of food or you’ll attract wildlife.”“What, do they have super-noses? They’re going to sneak up on us while we put up the tent?”

“What, do they have super-noses? They’re going to sneak up on us while we put up the tent?”“Trust me—get into the habit of always doing it and you won’t forget and wake up to a raccoon in your sleeping bag with you.”

“Trust me—get into the habit of always doing it and you won’t forget and wake up to a raccoon in your sleeping bag with you.”After a frustrating hour, they got the tent put up. Roxie stepped back to take it in. “It’s a little…small. Are you sure that’s a two-person tent?”

After a frustrating hour, they got the tent put up. Roxie stepped back to take it in. “It’s a little…small. Are you sure that’s a two-person tent?”“I’m sure. They only give you enough room to sleep. It’s not for hanging out and ignoring the nature you drove all this way to see.”

“I’m sure. They only give you enough room to sleep. It’s not for hanging out and ignoring the nature you drove all this way to see.”“I get it, I get it. We’re going to be outdoors.” She unzipped her M&Ms, offered him one, then continued to eat them when he shook his head. “So what do we do next?”

“I get it, I get it. We’re going to be outdoors.” She unzipped her M&Ms, offered him one, then continued to eat them when he shook his head.“So what do we do next?”

“So what do we do next?”“We eat. I’m going to the campground store to buy some firewood.”

“We eat. I’m going to the campground store to buy some firewood.”“You didn’t bring that, too?”

“You didn’t bring that, too?”He scowled at her and shook his head. “It’s illegal to bring it with you. This really is your first time camping at a state park, huh?”

He scowled at her and shook his head. “It’s illegal to bring it with you. This really is your first time camping at a state park, huh?”“It’s my first time camping, period. So, what do I do while you run to the store?”

“It’s my first time camping, period. So, what do I do while you run to the store?”“I’d tell you to unpack, but you’re a total newb, so I’ll do it when I get back. Just…

“I’d tell you to unpack, but you’re a total newb, so I’ll do it when I get back. Just… sit there and watch the wild animals.”She found an old, weathered tree stump log and plopped down. “Wild animals like squirrels and birds, right? No bears?”

She found an old, weathered tree stump log and plopped down. “Wild animals like squirrels and birds, right? No bears?”“Not as long as you keep the M&Ms put away.” He hopped into his truck and drove off.

“Not as long as you keep the M&Ms put away.” He hopped into his truck and drove off.Roxie rolled her eyes and glanced around. Birds chirped and chattered at one another, a cacophony of sound she’d never noticed before. Every so often, one would swoop from one branch to another and begin a song. It actually was kind of relaxing. Like one of those nature

Roxie rolled her eyes and glanced around. Birds chirped and chattered at one another, a cacophony of sound she’d never noticed before. Every so often, one would swoop from one branch to another and begin a song. It actually was kind of relaxing. Like one of those nature CDs she’d given her clients to help them de-stress back when she worked.When Aidan came back, he had a ton of firewood. Over the next hour, he unpacked everything, occasionally giving Roxie small chores to help.

When Aidan came back, he had a ton of firewood. Over the next hour, he unpacked everything, occasionally giving Roxie small chores to help.“Time to eat an early dinner,” he declared.

“Time to eat an early dinner,” he declared. “We missed lunch.”

“We missed lunch.”“I missed lunch. You had half a bag of M&Ms,” he teased, his voice indulgent.

“I missed lunch. You had half a bag of M&Ms,” he teased, his voice indulgent.He pulled out a package of hot dogs, all sealed up like everything else, some buns, and mustard and ketchup. For a few minutes, he searched around on the ground and Roxie watched, puzzled. Finally, he selected a couple of sticks, pulled out his knife, and sharped the ends.

He pulled out a package of hot dogs, all sealed up like everything else, some buns, and mustard and ketchup. For a few minutes, he searched around on the ground and Roxie watched, puzzled. Finally, he selected a couple of sticks, pulled out his knife, and sharped the ends. He handed her one. “Put your wiener on that. Through the middle, like this.” He demonstrated, then they sat around the fire and cooked them. He got busy handing out the buns, mustard, and a bag of potato chips.

He handed her one. “Put your wiener on that. Through the middle, like this.” He demonstrated, then they sat around the fire and cooked them. He got busy handing out the buns, mustard, and a bag of potato chips. They ate until they were stuffed. Roxie had to admit, it was pretty good. Fire-roasted wieners… who knew?

They ate until they were stuffed. Roxie had to admit, it was pretty good. Fire-roasted wieners… who knew?Night had fallen and the noises began to change. There was neighing from neighboring equine campsites and hoots from owls and rustling sounds from other night animals. She helped Aidan secure all the food in baggies, in a gigantic cooler, which they placed a big rock on top of.

Night had fallen and the noises began to change. There was neighing from neighboring equine campsites and hoots from owls and rustling sounds from other night animals. She helped Aidan secure all the food in baggies, in a gigantic cooler, which they placed a big rock on top of.“Now what?” she asked.

“Now what?” she asked.He shrugged. “Now, we talk until we’re sleepy.”

He shrugged. “Now, we talk until we’re sleepy.”“Oh.” Great, because she was so awesome at peopling.

“Oh.” Great, because she was so awesome at peopling.


We writers have pretty strong internet-research game. We also ask each other questions: what’s life like in a small town, a coastal neighborhood, a big city? We can be extremely resourceful in finding those perfect details that set the scene for a story. If we do it well, the reader is grounded there and they can become immersed in the story itself.

Q: What book has taken you away to another place or nailed a locale so well, you felt like you’d been there?

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.
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