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A Jaunt across Time

This may be my year of time travel. Maybe it's a little preposterous to have characters travel in time in a fairy tale, but while coming up with the plot for The Map across Time, I couldn't resist. I've always loved the odd theories about time travel and loved books like Jack Finney's Time and Again, and movies like Back to the Future. If fairy tales could include magic and wizards and spells and flying carpets, why not a magical map that could move one through time?

I came up with the idea for book three in The Gates of Heaven series while on a wonderful trek around England with my husband in the harsh month of January. We spent a few days in Bath and slept at the youth hostel up on a hill above town. Bath is one of my favorite cities, and as I sat upon our tiny twin bed in a room that barely allowed us to move around, I thumbed through a book my husband had brought along. In it the author spoke of needing a map for our lives that could lead us through the twists and turns and give us direction in the midst of chaos. I immediately thought about how you could portray a map that could move through time instead of space. How would that work? I thought about the old movie The Time Machine and recalled the funny sequence of scenery that met the time traveler's eyes as he sat in the machine and watched the store window dressing change in fast motion as he moved backward through the years. Eventually he sped up, and found himself going through the geological changes of the region as well. At one point he became buried under the earth but thankfully landed back in that jolly old time where people were being sacrificed to some god. I guess no matter where (or when) your journeys lead you, there's always some bum thing that makes you want to go home.

Another thing that influenced my concept of having my characters move through time was Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber series. What a crazy bunch of books! If you haven't read them, you might find them puzzling and wacky. But the story is terrific. Amber is the true land, and all other (many) worlds are only shadows. The nine princes in Amber have the ability to travel from these shadow worlds to the real Amber, but they have to do so methodically and deliberately by visually altering the landscape a bit at a time through their minds to become more like the true Amber--until they arrive. It's almost as if they have to re-create it every time. This series was written in the 1970s and it feels a bit dated. but what I love is how Zelazny shows his characters moving from one world to another, much like the way the time machine moved through time in the classic movie. So in The Map across Time, I tried to capture some of the chaotic and insane effects one might feel zooming through time as the world and sky spun in fury. I also borrowed from one of my favorite Ray Bradbury stories, "A Sound of Thunder" (from which the whole "butterfly effect" comes from), that has the main character "bumping" into himself as he goes back to the past and then returning to the future. It's all fun.

So, if you haven't had a chance to read The Map across Time yet and you love convoluted time travel stories, be sure to check it out. Yes, there are those odd potentially universe-destroying paradoxes where characters might (that's all I'll give you...) run into "themselves," but I'll leave you to work it all out.

If you think I've had enough of time travel, I haven't. I've written the first book in a young adult series called Time Sniffers, which is now getting sent out to publishers. Already one publisher is interested in acquiring it and my hope is that it will be the next big hit. The book is a little like the classic A Wrinkle in Time (throw in The Breakfast Club and The Philadelphia Experiment for good measure). Surely who can resist alien camo dogs that sniff out rips in space-time and love pizza? If you think that's weird, maybe you should read the story of the guys who came up with...have you ever really wondered ... Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If the public can suspend disbelief enough to root for those half-baked-in-the-shell creations, then I'm sure a few dogs that can turn into couches and walls and carpeting won't be a hard sell. Right?