I love research. Seriously. I know that's twelve kinds of nerdy, but there it is. Google is my friend as are books and cold call interviews. I love them all, but hands on stuff is my favorite.
I'll cheerfully take a class if I think it'll be fun and make for good research. The citizens police academy was a great example of that. Handling bricks of cocaine, getting bitten by a police dog, going lights and siren after a drunk driver and taking him to jail were priceless in terms of research. Also, they were a weird kind of fun.
My latest research fun happened last summer on vacation. I got a chance to explore an old iron mine with my family and Bill, the awesome DNR guy who so patiently answered all my questions about Michigan's Department of Natural Resources as well as our native black bear and gray wolf population for Maggie's Mates and Just Right.
Bill met up with us to take us into the bowels of an iron mine. Turns out he and I share a deep and abiding love of bats. (Yes, rodents with wings. We love them.) We went on the regular tour with the rest of the people, then Bill got permission to take us waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off the tour path.
It was dark with condensation dripping down the walls and splashing into standing pools of water. Sloppy, wet, red clay soaked into our shoes while we picked our way over slippery rocks, past giant blast holes, cave ins and blast rubble and fallen support beams. It was SO cool. Best of all, there were bats back there. Not a ton because the majority has already made their way outside and were happily catching mosquitoes and every other kind of annoying bug. But the few young males that were back there were fantastic. They're really quite tiny and definitely adorable (Yes, I know I'm mostly alone in thinking that, but I stand by my assessment.)
The best part of all of this, besides the fact that my family and I got to do something not a lot of other people get to do and it was fascinating, is that I will use this research - probably in more than one book. I know the mine itself will show in the YA novel I'm working on. I imagine it might show up in other stories too - as will the bats. :)
And I would have gotten to do this particular research at all if it hadn't been for the cold calls I was making in the process of doing other research! See? Research = Awesome!