What Happens in Vegas, Gets Published to the Entire World

Extra! Welcome to another Indie Author spotlight this week, an article on how to research your novel by author Kay Keppler. Kay Keppler writes smart, funny contemporary romance, and other fun stuff. Her story on how she did research for her Vegas-based book is fun and informative. Enjoy! PS. Oh, be sure to visit her blog for a chance to win one of my writing books and many other fabulous prizes.


I want to thank Beth for letting me take up valuable space on her blog to write about research. This is a bigger favor than you might guess, since Beth read the entire book that resulted from this research. Multiple times. And she stayed cheery about it. Which demonstrates what a good teacher she is, especially how patient!

Betting on Hope is my first self-published book. It takes place in Las Vegas, and the plot revolves around a young woman who lives on a ranch that her father lost to a Mafia don in a high-stakes poker game. Hope, our heroine, wants to win back the ranch, and she calls on a motley crew of semi-legal poker professionals to help her.

My main goals in this book were to poke fun at the FBI and maybe organic farmers. And, of course, ex-Communists.

It hangs together. Really. Just ask Beth. Thanks to her and—you got it—research.

When I started the book, I knew nothing about any of these subjects. Not poker, the Mafia, or organic farming. I’d been to Las Vegas once, for work, and never left the building. I did know a little bit about the FBI, but that’s another story. I’m not sure anybody really knows anything about Communists.

The two main things I needed to learn about were poker and Nevada. I’d never played poker, and I wanted to portray professionals, amateurs, addicts, and cheats. So I bought books, and I read them. I now have a fairly extensive library of poker books: 13, to be exact. (If anyone wants to borrow any of them, see me after.)

Where I live, poker games are televised in the middle of the night, so when I had insomnia, I’d watch. I tried to figure out each player’s tells. Thanks to the miracle of mini-cams, I knew what cards each player held. I guessed how they’d play their hands. I saw how some players were conservative and some took chances. How they played when the chips were down, so to speak. How skill got them to championships, but luck played an inevitable role in winning.

Then—a field trip! A friend wanted to go to Vegas to see Celine Dion. I said I’d go if we could scout locations. I wanted to find “Hope’s ranch,” where she could have horses and her sister could have an organic farm, within forty miles of Las Vegas.

Did that place exist in southern Nevada? I looked at all kinds of maps. Road maps, Google maps, topographical maps. For the story, Hope’s ranch had to be worth more than they expected. That left out any area southeast of Vegas, because that land was expensive (per Zillow). Hope would know that.

I rejected areas northeast of Vegas because the distance between towns looked too great. That left areas northwest of Vegas near the Spring Mountains. In that area, elevation gains would cool the desert air and possibly provide water, which Hope’s ranch and her sister’s farm needed.

My friend and I drove out there. The first town was too hot and too dry. No gardens, no horses, no water to be seen.

We took another highway. Climbed a bit. And then—pay dirt! We saw a sign with an arrow. “Cherry Ranch,” it said. It sounded nice. What kind of livestock would it have? What kind of buildings? Would there be trees? We hadn’t seen many trees.

We drove down the approach road, a narrow, dusty track. “Welcome to Cherry Ranch!” the sign said. “Live girls! Dancing! Erotic pleasures!”

Oh. That kind of ranch. I guess in Nevada, we should have known.

We drove on, and eventually I found Hope’s ranch. It had cottonwoods and horses. I saw a woman gardening out front. That was the real pay dirt. Research accomplished!

By the way, Celine Dion was great. That stayed in Vegas.

For those who don’t have a copy of Beth’s wonderful book, The Writer’s Adventure Guide: 12 Stages to Writing Your Book, you have a chance to win it and many other fabulous prizes by going over to my site (www.kaykeppler.com/blog) this week (Dec. 16-23) and leaving a message. I’m participating in a “blog hop,” so drop by as many sites as you can, leave your John Henry at each one, and you can win Beth’s book from me, other prizes from other writers, or even the grand prize—a new Nook, preloaded with the sponsors’ books. Check it out!

Author, Kay Keppler

Kay Keppler has written manga, contemporary romance, and, coming in April 2012, space opera. She lives in northern California, where she writes and edits fiction and nonfiction. More about Kay at her blog: (www.kaykeppler.com/blog).

Editor’s note: I not only edited and read Kay’s book, Betting on Hope, I Laughed Out Loud! Yep! She’s funny, smart and I always enjoy reading what’s next!

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