Saturday, July 24, 2010

Need an exotic getaway this summer?

If you're like me, this summer's vacation will be a staycation. But you can always escape with to an exotic locale with a fun read.

Going with Gravity is just what you need. Travel with my heroine, Allison Morris, to lush Hawai‘i, and be swept away by sexy surfer Wes Hamilton.

This is the first of a new series of posts called Story Elements. These will examine the different aspects of each story, and how I pulled the different elements together to form each story. Stay tuned for another cool new series called Casting Call, which will debut on Wednesday July 28.

A news story spurred the initial idea for Going with Gravity. A jet lost its fuselage in midair and managed to land with no injuries to any of its 350 passengers, despite a gaping hole in the plane. An amazing story in itself. But in reading it, I wondered about the people on that plane. More importantly, who could I put on such a plane?

To ratchet up the tension, the characters on that fateful flight had to be under personal pressure. So I created Allison Morris. A harried public relations expert, Allison stayed at her job out of dedicated professionalism. Her boss, Michelle McCarter, took her divorce from a famous rock star badly, and often left a PR mess for Allison to clean up. Others might kill to have an in with the rock star royalty she rubbed elbows with, but Allison would kill for a day off, and Michelle was becoming too much to handle. Allison had always dreamed of going to Hawai‘i, but when Michelle needs her there, she doesn't look forward to it. She's barely had time for her own life.

Poor Allison was so uptight, I needed to balance her out with someone laid back. Someone who didn't let anything rile him. Someone who believed in the path he was on. Wes Hamilton is just such a guy. Up for any challenge, he seems Allison's polar opposite, except that he holds the same basic values - he cares for people, for the environment. Despite his anything-goes appearance, he works hard, and not just at maintaining his status as a world-class surfer. He's also an entrepreneur.

So when that fuselage blew in mid-air, while Allison's in the rest room, she freaks. Wes rushes to her to make sure she's ok. His embrace turns into a kiss. For all Allison knows, this could be her last few minutes alive. She wants more. So she earns her entry into the Mile High Club.

Because so many of my summers consist of staycations, I love researching settings. Going with Gravity's main setting is Oahu, but the flight's emergency landing is in San Diego. I found a very cool hotel there called Hotel del Coronado. Not only is the hotel itself very unusual, its rooms - especially the bathrooms - are amazing. And they overlook the Pacific Ocean.

From there, Allison goes to the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani (she's on a budget, and can't afford to stay where Michelle stays). Down after a misunderstanding with Wes, she learns about Princess Kaiulani, the crown princess of Hawaii in the 1800s. The princess's tragic story is one I'd like to write about sometime.

Hawai‘i has so many unique elements. As soon as you hear the sweet and soulful strains of a slack key guitar, it conjures images of the island beaches and sunsets, girls in grass skirts dancing with their hands and hips and feet. A slack key guitar is basically a six-string acoustic with the strings loosened to achieve that unique sound. Various theories exist about its origins, but the general consensus is that European sailors introduced the six-string guitar to Hawai‘i at the start of the nineteenth century. Around 1832, guitars were also brought to Hawai‘i by vaqueros (cowboys) from Mexico and Spain hired by King Kamehameha III to instruct the Hawaiians in managing an overpopulation of cattle. Many of the vaqueros worked on the Big Island of Hawai‘i around Waimea. According to my research, "When the hired vaqueros returned to their lands, they often left behind their guitars. Hawaiians began to tune the guitars in their own way by loosening, or slackening the keys until the six strings formed a single chord. In addition to the signature tuning, slack key guitar is distinguished by the playing technique. The bass sound is played on the lower register while the melody is played on the higher register at the same time. This unique blending of sounds results in an intricate, rich, and soulful harmony."

The ukelele is also strongly associated with Hawai‘i, but doesn't transport me instantly to the islands quite like the slack key guitar.

The Hawai‘ian language really amazed me. With only eight consonant phonemes, and either 5 or 25 vowel phonemes, depending on how the long vowels and diphthongs are treated. Its simplicity equals its complexity.

To get an idea, here are a few words and phrases relating to the sea:
Kai; moana (open); malo, pāʻū (poetic). See sayings, pūnoni, forecast. Calm, quiet sea, kai mālie, kai malino, kai malolo, kai hoʻolulu, kai pū, kai wahine, kai kalamania, kaiolohia. Strong sea, kai koʻo, kai kāne, kai nui, kai nuʻu, ʻōkaikai. Rough or raging sea, kai pupule, kai puʻeone, kai akua, ʻōkaikai. Deep sea, kai hohonu, kai ʻau, kai hoʻēʻe, kai lū heʻe (fig.). Restless sea with undercurrent, kai kuolo, kai holo, kai lewa, lapa kai, kai kō, kai au. Dark blue sea, moana uli, moauli. Streaked sea, associated with Kona, kai māʻokiʻoki. Whispering sea, associated with Kawaihae, kai hāwanawana. Salt sea, kai paʻakai. Shallow or reef sea, kai kohola, kai koʻele. Rippled sea, kai hoʻolili. Receding or ebbing sea, kai heʻe, kai emi, kai mimiki, kai hoʻi, kai nuʻu aku. Western sea, kai lalo. High sea, kai piha, kai nuʻu. Of the sea, o kai. Towards the sea, i kai, makai. Place where sea and land meet, ʻae kai. By the sea, a kai. Sea almost surrounded by land, kai hāloko. The eight seas, nā kai ʻewalu (seas about the Hawaiian Islands, poetic). Puna with its sea rustling over pebbles, Puna i ke kai nehe i ka ʻiliʻili. My sea, concealing sarong (UL 124), kuʻu kai, pāʻū halakā. Black sea, yellow sea, Kāne's purplish-blue red-brown sea … silent sea, swinging sea (PH 237), kai ʻeleʻele, kai melemele, kai pōpolohua mea a Kāne … kai mū, kai lewa.

Of course, I had to incorporate a few of the more romantic and descriptive phrases into Going with Gravity. Wes couldn't resist the sea because of its kayani, which means “to call” or beacon. Wes taught Allison the meaning of ho`onipo: to make love, court, woo, yearn for. He also gives her a new name, Alana, which means Awakening. Unfortunately, the Hawai‘ian language is nearly extinct. As of 2000, less than 0.1 percent of the population spoke it.

I hope you've enjoyed learning a little more about how Going with Gravity came together. Here's the trailer, and an excerpt. The story's available from The Wild Rose Press.

Allison pulled her portfolio from her laptop case and set it on her lap, afraid to open it. As soon as the articles had arrived on her fax machine, she’d shoved them into her bag, then hopped in the shower. Delay tactics only worked for so long. The moment of truth had arrived. She opened it and thumbed through. Eleven pages. Eleven. And these were only the newspaper articles from the past two days. TV and online news sites surely covered more. And then there’d be the inevitable blogger. Uncontrollable, overly opinionated and accountable to no one, they were the worst.
Michelle had arrived on Oahu with a bang, and then had the audacity to blame Allison for not doing her job to quell the media. She held up one photo of a topless Michelle prancing in the surf, laughing. Rumors and innuendo could be stopped with logic and tact, but to downplay this photo, she’d need a good explanation. When Michelle’s logic and tact failed her so obviously, Allison had to wonder about her mental state.
A hulking figure filled the aisle, stowing his bag in the overhead compartment.
Those shorts. That shirt.
It was him.
He checked his ticket, looked at her and smiled. His blond hair fell across his forehead as he sat next to her, his shoulder bumping hers. “Hello again.”
For two years, she’d rubbed elbows with stars of all magnitudes without so much as a blink, and fended off paparazzi following the wife of megastar James McCarter.
With two words, she’d been reduced to the rank of dreamy-eyed teeny bopper.
He smiled, raised an eyebrow.
She realized, then, she hadn’t responded. And her mouth hung open.
Make that drooling dreamy-eyed teeny bopper.
She flashed a smile. Think. Damage control is your business. Put it to good use for once.
“Hi.” Oh, yes. Very witty. What a deft deflection of his charm.
She turned back to her articles, but sensed the weight of his stare.
He frowned at her reading material. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to read over your shoulder. I take it you’re a closet fan of the poor little rich girl?”
“In the same way I’m a closet fan of train wrecks, I suppose. I guess you’re not a fan.”
“Of hers?” He chuckled. “God, no. She’s awful. Her publicist should be shot.”
Shot. Of course. Working fifty-five to sixty-five hours a week wasn’t enough to keep the spin spinning fast enough for the rest of the world. The one guy who’d interested her in the past two and a half years thought she made a good candidate for execution. Her life was in such a rut, she’d need mountain climbing gear to get out.
“If you’re a fan, I didn’t mean to offend.” Sincerity had wiped the smile from his face.
“Actually, I’m..” She turned and smiled, “…her publicist.”


Alice Audrey said...

All the Hawaiian words for sea have my eyes crossing.

Arlene said...

Lovely, Cate, absolutely lovely. From the detail on how you immerse yourself in the envirement, a trailer I'd kill for, and then the excerpt pushed me over the edge. I'm off to add to my folder wishing gravity would sweep me into a Wes.

Maeve Greyson said...

Loved the trailer, Cate and the excerpt reads like a book I need to add to my TBR list. I'm definitely going to check it out. :)

Mariposa Cruz said...


Loved the behind the scenes peek as to how different elements came together into an amazing story.

Cate Masters said...

Aw thanks guys! I had all these pages of research and thought I should do something with them! I always love to hear about other authors' creative processes, so I'm glad you liked to hear mine. :)

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Cate,
Exotic getaway, sounds just what I need.
Great blog.



Cate Masters said...

You and me both Margaret! Cheers!