I recently wrote a short story for an upcoming anthology inspired by the music of Lou Reed. My story, Pale Blue Eyes, based on his song, could not take place in New Jersey or New York, the states with which I am most familiar, having lived in both for years. Something about the rumble of Lou Reed’s gravelly tenor refused to let me throw the characters inspired by his songs in the fast-talking, faster moving Manhattan area and its environs. So, I set it in Las Vegas. Part of it takes place on the infamous strip, which I’ve been to. But the far more significant part of the story takes place at Las Vegas’ Red Rock Canyon State Park, which I have never visited.Thanks to Google, though, I could virtually visit. The Internet Giant’s map site let me walk through the Calico Tanks trail, showing me all the scenery I might see on a given day, every step of the way. I could see the dusty trail, the striated red rock formations and the prickly scrub brush lining the narrow foot path. I could view user uploaded images at different points in the day of the giant red rocks. Thanks to associated links, I could even visit pages where visitors discussed everything about the park from the smell of the air, to the weather in the month that I had set my story, to the way the sun sets. I think the site really changes the game for writers, most of whom can’t afford to travel solely to inform a new book or short story. Have you ever written a story in a place that you have never been? What tools did you use to research it?