I love research. There's nothing I like better when starting a book than to be able to do research. I love going to the library and finding books and articles on the subject I'm researching. I love being able to google the subject and have all kinds of books and articles show up in my browser. I make a research file for each book in my browser favorites and keep all the links in it. I also keep a file for print articles and I have both ebooks and paper books for research. I keep all my research for every book I've written. That way if I need to know something about jewel thieves, or Texas Rangers, or cops, or cold cases, or Hotshots, or any number of things I've researched in the past, I don't have to start from zero.
A really interesting thing happened just as I was starting to do research for Cry Love. I decided that even though I'd never heard of one, that it would have been logical for there to have been another Underground Railroad, but this one running from Texas to Mexico. After all, Mexico is a lot closer to Texas than Canada. Imagine my surprise when I found that my idea happened to be true.
First, I googled Texas-Mexico Underground Railroad to see if it had existed. I found a number of articles that referred to it, some with just a mention and some with more information. Information was scarce on the subject. There isn't a lot written about it, or at least, a lot that is accessible. Most people don't even know the Texas-Mexico Underground Railroad existed. I've read that much that's written about it is in Spanish, but even in Mexico the stories about it aren't well known.
The kernel of an idea I started with was that of a black man and a white woman who fell in love just prior to the Civil War. The man was a slave. Again, I didn't know much about the subject, but people fall in love all the time, so it didn't seem impossible for such a situation to have taken place. One of the books I found fascinating is Forbidden Fruit--Love Stories From the Underground Railroad, by Betty Deramus. One section that particularly interested me was about interracial love stories from the Civil War era. The stories were touching and emotional and often tragic. Although I still research some of the medical references and situations and such, I do have my own personal go-to medical sources. My husband, Bob, is a retired physician who was a General Surgeon and Radiologist. He loves it when I ask him things. Me: "I need something really exciting to happen in the ER." I go on to explain the circumstances, what I'm trying to accomplish, etc. Bob: "You don't want the ER to be exciting. Things aren't going well if they're exciting." Me: "Yes, yes, I know that. (He's told me this before. Many times.) But tell me what could happen that requires both a trauma surgeon and a neurosurgeon. Something they might argue about." Bob: Sighs heavily. "Well, this could happen…" Me: "No." Bob: "Or this…" Me: "No." Bob: Audibly grinding teeth. "How many scenarios do you want?" Me: "I want one that's exciting." We go on like that for a while until I finally hear something that might work. Then, of course, I have to pick his brains about how to write the scene and finally, I ask him to read over it to make sure it doesn't sound stupid or that I haven't gotten something wrong. I'm fairly certain at times like that he wishes he wasn't a retired physician. My daughter is a Physician's Assistant so I have another source for answers to medical questions. I think she likes being asked. So far.:) I also had to do some research about divorce in Texas. I warned my husband in case he came upon me reading about divorce and thought I was planning something. I don’t think he was worried. I'm pretty sure I've asked him questions about that as well. I've been a writer for a long time now, so he's accustomed to being asked about all sorts of subjects--both those he knows about and those he doesn't. There are a number of groups for writers that are wonderful for doing research. An excellent one is the Yahoo groups Crime Scene Writers group, started by Wally Lind, a retired police crime scene investigator. The description from the Yahoo groups site reads: "A forum for asking and answering crime scene investigation, applied forensics, and police procedure questions for fiction or non-fiction writers. Writers are invited to ask and crime scene investigators, forensic scientists, and medical practitioners are invited to answer."
As with a lot of things, research has changed markedly with the Internet. It can make a writer's life both easier and harder. Easier to find books, articles and other resources to find answers to questions. Harder because it's common to get distracted by every article you read and keep clicking on different articles until suddenly you are reading an article that has absolutely no relation to whatever you were researching. Worse, two hours have passed and you still haven't found the answer to your question. But you never know when you might need an article on Wolf Moon name variations.