Trish and I really ARE on the same wavelength. After she finished with setting, and I blogged about it, I mentioned research would probably be next...lo and behold, her part 4 is indeed about getting the details right.
The nice thing about writing novels is that you can immerse yourself in an alternate reality. If there's something you wanted to do, you can have your characters do it. It's quite fun, actually!
For my previous books most of my research has been done by either personal knowledge and a few questions answered by acquaintances or family, or by GOOGLE. Google is, as Trish puts it, a writer's best friend. A source of infinite information at your fingertips. In TGML, I looked up what I'd need for permits to start a restaurant in Calgary. In Almost a Family, I honestly didn't have to research much. It is set in my home town and my hero is a veterinarian, so whatever I needed I asked my sister...which honestly wasn't much as I hung around the clinic since I was about 14 anyway. (She and her husband are both vets). For Hired By The Cowboy I researched Mad Cow disease and ranch information.
One of the great things about writing for the line that I am is that the focus is so much on the hero and heroine that oftentimes research is not overwhelming. And inevitably you will know more than will ever make it into the manuscript. The focus is always on the hero and heroine. For MCM, the sequel to Hired By the Cowboy, I refreshed my memory as to the area and a few weeks ago, drove up to Sundre Alberta, visited the museum, and just drove around. I got an idea for a whole other book too...as I went down this dirt road, suddenly I came upon a paved driveway, with iron gates and video surveillance. The house and other buildings were set down on the slope, so I could only see the roof. I wonder who could possibly live there...in their own little fortress.
ANYWAY, back to the topic at hand. For FhF, the next book, I am researching my little heart out. There are two reasons for this. The military is a culture on to its own and one I don't know much about, despite having a weakness for military tv shows. Since my hero is a former sniper, but he's wounded, I have to make sure what I do with him is plausible from a military standpoint. The other reason for this is that I truly believe that our men and women in the forces deserve for me to get this right. Which is a topic for another day.
I read a book on peacekeeping and I'm currently reading Friendly Fire by Michael Friscolanti. It is wonderful for painting a picture about what it is like serving in Afghanistan. But I needed more. And this is where a network comes in handy.
I posted on e-harlequin, asking for information on the Canadian Military. I had e-mails within an hour. One source I've heard back from already. It is so exciting! My source is ex-special forces, with sniper qualifications, so when I get an answer to a question, it's a good one!
I will only use about 10% of what I will learn within the book. But the thing is, I can really make the most of what I do reveal by being well informed. I was very happy to learn that what I wanted to do with my hero is plausible. I have information about everything from sniping to what an every day uniform is called (combats).
Now, I'm thinking once you have your characters, setting, and research done...the next thing is one of the hardest....finding the right starting point!