Best Tax Write-Off Ever

- by Chris Marie Green

There are a lot of things an author can write off for taxes: office supplies, postage, promotion, copies.

But my favorite category is research.

Now, I’m not just talking about buying books that allow me to keep up with the market or that offer insights into subjects I need to know in order to create a fleshed-out fictional world. I’m referring to firsthand research—the kind that gives you sensory details that pop from the page and make your reader believe that your characters are really there.

I wish I had enough cash flow and time to visit every single location about which I write. However, I’ve been lucky enough to do firsthand research for a decent number of my books, and here are a few of my favorites….

  • New Orleans

Right before Katrina, I had the opportunity to stay in the Big Easy for twelve days so I could research a Harlequin Blaze entitled BORN TO BE BAD. I saved up, stayed in a hotel, strolled the streets, took tours, and ate the incredible local food by daylight. By night, I would return to my room to get some writing done. I scouted out a home for my hero (see below), sighed over the cuisine at Rita’s in the French Quarter, and poked into some of the voodoo shops, just as my heroine did. The setting was such an important character that I felt justified in taking this trip, and it made writing this book a true pleasure (and pretty easy, too, since I did a lot of my writing while walking around New Orleans, stopping to record my reflections).

Damien's House, BORN TO BE BAD

Damien

  • Route 66

Once, when chick-lit was queen, I took off with my friend Sheri Whitefeather to explore the Western stretch of Route 66. I wanted to write about four friends who hit the road for a “Bachelorette Express” last-vestiges-of-youth party, but I became involved with other projects and the book stayed on the backburner. Years later, when I was thinking of an idea for another Blaze, I remembered this trip—as well as all the notes I’d taken—and I wrote a book about two friends (not four) who take off on the Mother Road. You can see a mini-scrapbook of my trip, which resulted in the book ONE FOR THE ROAD, on my main site at http://www.crystal-green.com (go to the bottom and click on “photo album” then Route 66).  Someday, I’d even still like to go back and travel the entire route, even if there’s no story in it.

  • London

Last year, after I was contracted to write a second trilogy for my Vampire Babylon series, I took a trip to London to scout locations and put together a plot for at least the first book (which is actually book four in the series). It was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Not only was I able to take detailed notes, but while I was sightseeing, I was so inspired that I would go back to my hotel and actually block out individual scenes. By the time I returned to the States, I had a firm idea of what would happen, scene-by-scene, in that first book. And when it came time to plot the second, my notes made that easier, too. (We’ll see what happens with the third, LOL.)

Some highlights:

Kingswood School--Bleak, gothic, gorgeous.  A perfect home for vampires, yes?

Kingswood School--Bleak, gothic, gorgeous. A perfect home for vampires, yes?

Here’s a haunted house in St. Albans, the city where I decided to locate the new home of the vampires.  Things like the architectural quirks you see here really allow a place to come alive.

Here’s a haunted house in St. Albans, the city where I decided to locate the new home of the vampires. Things like the architectural quirks you see here really allow a place to come alive.

Crossbones Graveyard in Southwark, across from the new headquarters for the vampire hunting team.  I knew I had to use the building across the street because of its proximity to this cemetery, which boasts cards, ribbons, and other mementos on the gate because people often go there to remember the people (and prostitutes) buried in this unconsecrated ground.

Crossbones Graveyard in Southwark, across from the new headquarters for the vampire hunting team. I knew I had to use the building across the street because of its proximity to this cemetery, which boasts cards, ribbons, and other mementos on the gate because people often go there to remember the people (and prostitutes) buried in this unconsecrated ground.

Come March, you can read about these locations—and many others—in A DROP OF RED, Vampire Babylon, Book Four. :-)

So what have been your favorite research places? One commenter is going to win an autographed trade copy of BREAK OF DAWN, Vampire Babylon, Book Three. I’ll draw the winner this Wednesday, so good luck, and thank you for coming to the NINC blog!

6 comments

  1. I am not a writer, so my favorite research places are the library and the internet.
    Am looking forward to reading Drop of Red.

  2. I’m always fascinated when an author gets to do research by going on ride alongs with law enforcement or learning to shoot a firearm or visiting the FBI Academy.

  3. Hi There! I’m not a writer either, but I do work in a bookstore and frankly I do research on what books to read myself and also on what books to recommend to our customers. People always ask for advice on what books to buy. I get info from the internet, book magazines and word of mouth suggestions from other readers. I have read the first 2 books in your series and would love to get the 3rd. Thanks for the contest!

  4. Hey, you all, and welcome!

    Estella, thank you! And I’ve done my share of library/Internet research, too. For THE HUNTRESS, where the action took place mostly in Transylvania, I was a travel book fiend. :)

    Oh, Jane, a few years ago I did a couple of Citizens Awareness academies as well as police ride alongs. LOVE them. We got to do everything from using a machine that simulates shooting scenarios (which was stressful!) as well as going through a crime house that they set up with real life situations. Doubly stressful. Along with great research, it gave me even more respect for their jobs. And as for one of the ride alongs? We went to a crime scene where a dead body had just been taken away. I won’t go into detail about what remained, but let’s just say they had me put on one of those surgical masks with Vicks inside to cover the stench.

    Nothing like that research!

    Barb P, thank you so much! A bookstore must be heaven. Thanks from all of us for doing what you do. : )

  5. BarbP, you’re the winner of BREAK OF DAWN! Please email me with your snail mail addy at cgreenwriite@aol.com.

    Thank you guys for coming out and commenting. Happy Thanksgiving. : )

  6. Thanks so much! I can’t wait to read it!