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A Little Time Travel Anyone?

Even though China outlawed it...

8-Time Travel-Out of Time by Pauline Baird Jones

There are books and movies in my life that felt like there was magic dust on the pages, books with that certain magic that lifted me out of my ordinary life and carried me away to romance and adventure. 

I’ve always had a fascination with time travel (even though China outlawed it in movies in books—just in case it was true. No really. I wouldn’t lie about it!), but I never intended to write time travel. I mean, think about it. All those paradoxes and time-shifting and changing the future (how does China know that hasn’t already happened bwahahaha). 

Sometimes the plots in my non-time travel books twisted and turned until my head hurt trying to figure it all out. 

So, no time travel for this gal. [Insert maniacal and ironic laughter here]

So how did I end up writing one, or possibly nine time travel books? 

Oddly enough, the first stirrings happened because of The Last of the Mohicans. If you’ve read Out of Time you’re looking puzzled right now. No Mohicans in sight in the book, and I can’t really explain why except that the movie was my first time-travel stirring. 

I did consider setting it in the rustic past, but let’s face it. If someone offered me a time travel trip, I wouldn’t go to any time without decent plumbing. My characters let me do a lot of painful things to them, but I sensed this was a bridge too far for even the most adventurous of characters. 

In some weird way, my mind settled on World War II as a setting. Yeah, there was a lot that could go wrong but PLUMBING. Yes, it was a bit rustic but better than finding the odd bush or tree to hide behind and who wants to run into trouble with their pants down?

There was another advantage to writing a book in that period. I had family members still alive who remembered it and there were lots of other living resources. I got amazing help from WWII veterans who shared their stories and experiences with me. 

It was as hard to write as I knew it would be. There was all the time travel stuff mixed in with the need for historical research. And sometimes I couldn’t find the answer to a question and had to change course or find a way around. 

I get asked all the time if there will be a sequel to Out of Time. I can finally say, yes, there is a sequel called Just in Time! It only took me twelve years to write and release it (in the midst of a pandemic, nonetheless!)

But I haven’t forgotten the characters or the adventure either. Out of Time was what we authors like to call a book of the heart. I wrote it because it wanted to be written, not because any publishers were begging me for it.

In fact, my then-agent wanted me to focus on something else entirely. Sometimes I think about the books I wouldn’t have written if we hadn’t parted ways. All my time travel, my science fiction romance books—and I think my Big Uneasy series would have been different, too. 

At the time, it felt like all my publishing progress was being swept away and my publishing clock reset to zero. But in reality, I was just being swept into a different pool of opportunity, with a wider set of choices just around the corner. All I had to do was hang on…

…and try a little time travel. Lol

Have you ever realized that what you thought was a huge bummer turned out to be a huge blessing?

Perilously yours,


Read on for an excerpt from Out of Time: 

December 20, 1942

It was officially morning, though dawn was still hovering below the horizon. The darkness was deep, but not as unrelenting as the cold, because dark would be pushed out by light—which is why it was called daylight bombing. Inside the veil of pre-dawn darkness, the base was alive with activity in preparation for the mission. Mel lay in her unfriendly bed, listening to distant discordant sounds as planes were readied for the upcoming mission. Out there somewhere, bombs were being armed and then trundled towards bomb bays. Some of them would have to-the-point messages to Hitler scrawled on the sides before loading. Soon the pilots and co-pilots would be shaken awake for breakfast prior to the briefing. Maybe they were already awake?

Mel lay there for a while, hoping sleep would win out over cold reality and the knot of fear in her stomach, but no such luck. She tensed before flipping back the blankets. Her flesh tried to shrink away from the cold and failed. There was no escape. She scrambled into her shoes and then scampered down the hall to a loo that wasn’t as primitive as it could have been, but wasn’t as great as she would have liked. The shower was lukewarm and so, after more miserable scampering, this time to the mess, was her breakfast. 

Her stomach didn’t want food, but she made herself eat a slice of toast. It helped to settle her stomach, as did the inevitable tea. She went easy on the liquids, though. Bathroom facilities were nonexistent in the air—for girls. Men, curse their sorry hides, could go anywhere they could point. Everyone around her was still sleepy and quiet. They didn’t know that the mission would be a go. Too many times this month, they’d sat in their planes for hours before standing down. Why should they worry about something that might not happen?

She fingered the roll of film from her camera, tucked snugly into a pocket. In the last time line, she’d given it to Jack, but Jack had been in on everything. It felt wrong to carry it with her to France. She looked around and spotted Norm. He saw her and waved, waiting for her to join him.

“I was wondering if I could store my film in your foot locker. I don’t have anything that locks.” Mel knew it would be sent to Gran when Norm was reported missing. It would be safe there and Norm was happy to help her out. When he opened the lid, Mel was swept back to her childhood and Gran, who’d showed her the contents many times as she helped her granddaughter get to know her grandfather. Maybe someday she’d see her photographs in that album and remember this time spent with honest-to-goodness heroes—and her grandfather. Maybe. 

If anything could give her the incentive to get on that plane, it was standing by that locker looking at Gran’s face smiling at her out of the frame of the photograph above Norm’s cot. She couldn’t fail. She just couldn’t. 

“Thanks, Norm.”

The briefing had started just before 0445 hours. Mel would have liked to have been one of those who had to attend, even though she knew the drill as well as they did. It would have been interesting to see it live, though. 

In her mind’s eye, she saw them grouped in the crowded hut, getting their target: Romilly-Sur-Seine, an air depot outside Paris that they’d tried to get to on the seventeenth. Next, the group intelligence officer would brief them on any intelligence they’d managed to collect. This would be followed by a weather report, which would be followed by the formation lineup. This was chalked on a blackboard. Who would be high, who would be low, and who got the lucky and more protected center. The lights would go down and using an epidiascope, they’d study a reflection of the aerial maps of their primary and backup targets on the wall.

While the briefing continued inside, outside, trucks and jeeps collected, waiting to transport the men to their planes. To escape the tension coiling in her gut, Mel slipped outside where the pre-flight growl of the engines was louder. The ground under her feet rumbled because of it and the passage of large trucks. No one appeared to notice her as they went about their appointed tasks. She was a spectator, not a participant.

The process wasn’t as smooth as it would become, but it was still amazing to see. These boys, because they were still boys, all knew their jobs and did them pretty well. She felt awed and privileged to see them—even as she wished she were anywhere but here, heading anywhere but where she was heading. One of the songs from last night started to play in her head. I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places….

Would she see Jack like that? Jack had said that no one really knew how time paradoxes worked, which was why they were called paradoxes. She wished she’d gotten a picture with just her and Jack, though, to remember him by. She saw him emerge from the briefing hut and her heart clutched. He deserved to be remembered.

* * * * * 

To find out more about Out of Time, click here!