Taking That Ride in the Sky

One of the challenging parts of writing a book is the research you unwittingly thrust upon yourself. When I began writing Courting His Favorite Nurse for Harlequin Special Edition, I saw a pivotal scene play out in a hot air balloon. For someone who has a fear of heights, I needed to do research!

I spent the morning surfing the net learning three basic things

  1. Hot air balloons are based on a very basic scientific principle: warmer air rises in cooler air.
  2. They only travel as fast as the wind blows.
  3. You can’t really steer them.

So how the heck did that guy go from place to place and around the world in eighty days?

  1. Think of a gas grill, and how the more you open the valve, the bigger the flame to heat the air in that colorful fabric envelope, the faster the balloon rises.
  2. To bring the balloon down, pull the chord that runs through the center of the envelope and opens at the top, which will open another valve, letting hot air escape. This decreases the inner air temperature, and cooled air causes the balloon to descend.
  3. The pilot can maneuver horizontally by changing the vertical position of the balloon. Since wind blows in different directions at different altitudes, the pilot can simply ascend and descend to the appropriate level (by doing steps 1 & 2) and ride with the wind.

Here’s how I used this info in my scene:

Suspended in the sky beneath a blimp-sized rainbow-colored balloon, Anne gripped the thick wicker basket and concentrated on looking out, not down. Lush farmland divided into neat squares, patches of orchards and rows of newly developed vineyards passed in the distance. Once again, she’d forgotten the humble beauty of her hometown. Oregon was so much greener, but the yellow and brown hills of Whispering Oaks held their own special charm, and the farmland, well, it was the salt of the earth.

Jack skillfully fired up the propane burners whenever needed, and by ascending or descending into the air flow, he controlled their direction. His summer of apprenticeship had paid off as he piloted their balloon as if second nature.

“This is so fantastic,” Anne said. “It’s the same feeling I get when I float in water.” She opened her arms, taking in the entire valley vista. “Except the view is much better from here.”

They smiled at each other, there gazes met and held. A spark in Jack’s eyes communicated he was happy to be here with her. Heck, he’d gone out of his way to make this happen and she was flattered. She’d been aware of a small adrenaline pop in her chest when he’d picked her up earlier, and ever since something hummed nonstop through her veins. Like the hot air balloon, Anne decided to go with the flow for the next hour as they drifted like a behemoth birthday ball across the Whispering Oaks horizon.

Are you a feet-firmly-planted-on-the-ground person, or would you like to fly with the wind?

lynne-marshallLynne Marshall (www.lynnemarshall.com) is a multi-published author of contemporary and medical romance for Harlequin Special Edition, Mills & Boon Medical Romance and The Wild Rose Press.