#SoCS: The pros and cons of time travel

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; see https://lindaghill.com/2020/08/14/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-15-2020/. This week’s prompt is “pro/con. Talk about the pros and cons of anything.

Some of you may know that I’m revising my first novel, a time travel romance called Vanishing, Inc. It’s about a young teacher who flees across the country to escape an abusive husband and lands in a tiny mountain town in Arizona. She finds what she thinks is the perfect home, a turn-of-the-last-century stone cottage. It comes with an overly-friendly landlady–and a visitor from another time.

So, since time travel has been on my mind lately, let’s explore its pros and cons:

Time travel: the pros

  • It makes for entertaining reading and story possibilities, especially fish-out-of-water stories. There’s a whole Wikipedia page devoted to time travel in fiction. Maybe one day Vanishing, Inc. will be listed there. Maybe I have delusions of grandeur.
  • It would be fascinating to visit another time and see how people really lived, rather than filtering what we know of the past through modern sensibilities–or the sensibilities and biases of the people who wrote history (and the people whose stories are recorded–hardly a representative sample of everyone).
  • You could undo mistakes and correct for your biggest regrets. I really wish I’d started writing fiction when I was young. I could go back to the mid-80s and fix that. (Which would be great, as long as I resisted the urge to layer my hair again. Ugh.)
  • You could try to change history, though that generally didn’t work out well for the cast of Outlander.
  • You could get rich “inventing” things before the actual inventor was born. This is my husband’s retirement plan.
  • You could hide from your present-day enemies. This is a temptation for Alex Collins, the main character in Vanishing, Inc.
  • Travel is always educational, mostly because it broadens our perspectives. Time travel would amplify that experience. Imagine the different perspective you would have on history, on human nature even, if you could visit the past. Just as travel to other places helps us better understand our own place, travel to other times would help us better understand our own time and how we got to where we are.

Time travel: the cons

  • Let’s start with the biggest con: it hasn’t been invented yet, so we’re all stuck with 2020. Sorry ’bout that. Now where did I leave my mask and hand sanitizer?
  • If we could travel back in time, we humans would find a way to screw up the world even more than we already have.
  • As individuals, we’d find a way to screw up our lives even more than we already have–which would be easy to do if we could change the past. One of the more well-known examples of this idea is the grandfather paradox, in which a hapless time-traveling human creates inconsistencies by, say, killing their own grandfather. I also imagine that if I could travel back in time, I would try to undo something I regretted, not realizing that action had unforeseen consequences, and end up undoing something precious. Like, for example, if I decided to go back and not date my first boyfriend, I wouldn’t have gotten dumped the day before Valentine’s Day in 1986, and I probably wouldn’t have been alone and sad in my hometown on the night after Valentine’s Day when a cute guy I met the previous summer heard I’d gotten dumped and called me and asked me to meet him at Chuck E. Cheese (yes, really) and we’ve been married for almost 29 years. You know, little things like that.
  • No birth control. That’s a deal-breaker right there.
  • No antibiotics. Another deal-breaker. And don’t even get me started on anesthesia. No romantic view of the past can compensate for the lack of modern medicine. That idea plays a part in my novel.
  • Here’s another one that plays a part in my novel: women’s rights, or the lack thereof. I’m not sure I would want to travel back to a time in which I would be property or, at best, a second-class citizen. Same issue for people of color or LGBT folks. The past was no picnic for those who weren’t straight, white males.
  • And finally, it would be incredibly frustrating to know things the people around you did not–and to know you couldn’t tell them without them locking you up in an asylum or burning you at the stake. I have a big mouth. I’d probably get burned at the stake in my first month.

How about y’all? Would you travel back in time (or, what the heck, forward in time) if you could? Why/why not? What time would you like to visit?

#IWSG: Genre-morphing–and a question for my readers

Happy IWSG Day! For those who are new here, I participate in the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. This month’s optional question is: Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

Before I get to this month’s question, I have a question for anyone reading this post: Would you be interested in a series of posts loosely related to self-help for writers? I’m not talking about over-the-top, Stewart Smalley style self-help but rather some practical ideas from self-help literature, applied specifically to writing. I’ve been looking for a focus for this blog, besides my own self-indulgence, and I’m interested in helping other writers find time to write, build positive habits, set goals, and make progress. What do y’all think? Has that topic been done to death, or is there room for more?

OK, now for this month’s IWSG question. My first novel, Vanishing, Inc., started out as a murder mystery/ghost story and morphed into a time travel romance. Both paranormal, but other than that, pretty different. I woke up one morning with the idea of a terminally-ill woman in a 19th century cottage built on a thin place. The closer she got to death, the thinner the veil would become between this world and the next, and the more she would be able to interact with the house’s spectral residents. I imagined that the ghosts would somehow reveal that a murder was committed there, and our unfortunate protagonist would have to identify the murderer before she died.

Somewhere in the early planning, my idea shifted. My protagonist became a battered wife hiding from her abusive ex in a small Arizona town. She rents a cottage built on a thin place–a fact she discovers when a man from 1910 materializes in her living room. Once I landed on that concept, the various plot pieces more or less fell into place, which is a lucky thing, because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

It’s now about six years later, and Vanishing, Inc. is in what I sincerely hope is the final round of revision before I hire a professional editor. Then there will be another round of revisions, and then I’ll enter query hell. I still hope to write the ghost story, but I see it being more of a novella. Someday…

#FOTD: Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (Cleome serrulata)

Like a lot of us still in quarantine, I’ve been trying to get out for walks throughout the day. I walk early in the morning, which is a great time to snap pictures of some of our local wildflowers. Today’s post is the second in what I’m going to optimistically call a series for Cee’s Flower of the Day photo challenge, featuring some of the native flora in my rural Flagstaff neighborhood. Today’s entry is our native cleome, Cleome serrulata, also called Rocky Mountain Bee Plant. Like the sacred datura (Datura wrightii) I featured in my last #FOTD post, this plant is both beautiful and kinda ugly. The plant itself is scraggly, but up close or massed in a field, it’s stunning. They sprout in random places in my garden, and I usually let them stay, because they’re low maintenance, the flowers are lovely, and the bees love ’em (Hey, it says so right in the name. Do you think they’d call it Rocky Mountain BEE Plant if the bees hated it? Would plant people lie to you?).

This year I have a few growing in my pumpkin patch. They look wonderfully rustic alongside the pumpkin vines and sunflowers. Some years they form huge masses in open fields around here. I’ve been thinking about gathering seed and sowing it in my pasture, so I can have my own pink and purple field.

#SoCS: I have more, but I need less

Purely gratuitous picture of the forest near my home, where I went hiking early Thursday morning.

More. That’s the prompt for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Blog Hop, hosted by Linda Hill. Right now I have more. I keep getting more. And I need less.

Yeah, I know, that probably sounded really ungrateful, but hear me out. My life is very full right now–full of good things and difficult things and mundane things, the things that make a life. But it’s one of those times when there’s just too much. I volunteered for an activity that, while enjoyable and of service to my fellow writers, is going to take a big chunk of time. My husband is having major surgery in 3 weeks, so I have to prepare to take leave from work and stock up on groceries and make meals ahead and, and, and… We’re waiting for my son’s COVID test results, meanwhile we’ve all had mild symptoms, so we’re trying to do everything we need to do before surgery without leaving the house. I’m revising my second novel. I’m considering hiring an editor for my first novel. I’m finalizing a short story. I’m trying to find a publisher for another story. I’m contemplating some other life changes. I’m in peri-menopause. I’m cleaning and decluttering. I’m cooking every meal at home because, you know, we might have COVID, so we aren’t going out. And I’m overwhelmed. And, oh, yeah, I’m working full time. Wheee….

Whew. Now that all that is out of the way, I want to emphasize that I’m grateful. So grateful. If we do have COVID, our symptoms are mild. Mine are already gone. Husband can’t taste his food, but otherwise, he’s fine. Son is almost back to normal, though he can’t taste his food either. Me? I can taste my food just fine. Too fine. All I want to do is eat. If this is COVID, then we are truly fortunate to come through it so easily.

My life is full of new opportunities and excitement and joy.

It’s high summer, and the weather and the garden are beautiful. I live a half mile from the Coconino National Forest, so I can hike amid the ponderosa pines every day if I want.

I’m gainfully employed–unlike so many–with a job I enjoy.

I’m healthy, and I’m happy.

So yeah, I’d like a bit less–fewer commitments, some time to lollygag and lounge and read and play–but my life is beautifully full. I have more. And it is wonderful.