Things I am Learning While Writing This Thing

1. The most popular rifle available during the Civil War was the Springfield. I don’t think there was actually a dominatrix in Black Bottom who would beat you with one after the War, but why the hell not?

2. Crinolines did not go out of fashion right after the War. One had to sit carefully in them or they would flip up on you and show the world your pantalettes.

3. ‘Pantalettes’ is a word I just learned tonight. I thought they were called “bloomers” but no, those came later. ‘Pantalettes.’ Suddenly, ‘panties’ makes sense.

4. Could someone kiss your intimate region (i.e. your cooter) while you were wearing a hoop skirt? Yes, but not easily. Would you be able to watch? No. Could your sister watch from an upstairs window? Yes. Lesson? This is not a very historically accurate book so far.

5. I was kind of bummed by the lack of historical accuracy, but then I thought, well, fuck it. No book is really 100% historically accurate. It’s all kind of a dream you have about the past. I’m just upping the dream feeling of it.

6. I have planned the book to end in roughly 1887. I’m still in 1865 right now, but I’m about done. Sue just needs to go out to Tuscalum to see about a woman. Then is 1867, when bad things happen. I kind of have the book set up to have two climaxes. There’s 1867, when the cave is discovered, Lee Overton kills his wife in order to marry Sue, and then Lee goes through the cave thinking he’s going to the spirit realm only to wind up in Nashville now.

7. Then it is 1887–the year Lee returns. And thus the actual climax of the book is the final conflict between him and the woman he thinks wronged him.

8. Here’s what I wonder about, though. And I know it’s a common problem with time travel books. But there’s Lee, sitting in 1867 and he jumps forward to 2010, then back to 1887. He’s also, obviously, dead in 2010, since he was born in 1837. So, is it like a straight line? Livinglivingdeaddeadlivingdead? Or is Lee’s life a straight trajectory of livinglivinglivingdeaddeaddead, even if that’s on a timeline that includes a big jump forward and back? Is time more like a large spiral? Imagine a spring big enough that 1867 and 2010 are on the same timeline and yet also appear to be running parallel with each other. Is it then just a matter of leaping between coils? He’s never dead between the 1800s and now from his perspective, because to him, he’s just up or down a coil?

That’s partially why I decided to let him both be gone 20 years and age 20 years, so that it would seem as if the whole timeline turns at the same rate. You can jump eras, but you can’t get outside the passage of time. If 20 years go by, 20 years go by, no matter where you spend them.

Still, I wonder what was in the casket for all those years. I wonder if, when he died, he just waited snuggly in his grave, knowing he was going to blink back on in a hundred and thirty years.

It kind of hurts my brain to think about.

6 thoughts on “Things I am Learning While Writing This Thing

  1. Well, logistically, I’m going to have to rework that scene a bit. I want his behavior to be wrong and slightly creepy, but not so creepy that she would notice, being so young. I may just have him kiss the insides of her knees.

  2. Pantalettes had a split in the crotch (actually, two overlapping flaps that cover the pubis but allow the discreet lady to pee without taking
    the whole get-up off. Likewise the hoops collapse, stack, and flip — you’d have been very uncomfortable trying to watch, but it’s technically possible. According to the few explicit pre-war accounts I’ve read about “sporting” when people are dressed, older men either frottage or finger-bang their younger female partners.

    I am a fount of weird information, aren’t I?

  3. Oh, for the good old days of the early 18th century, when adultery could be consummated by a fully-clothed woman siting on a fully-clothed man’s lap! With no hoops in the skirt, it was easy. When Susanna Cibber and William Sloper were getting it on, the landlord hid in a closet and watched. Then there was a trial and he testified to what he had seen. I always wondered how he found it possible to get tenants after that.

  4. Even the early 19th century, one could have sex pretty much anywhere by just moving one’s drawers around and loosening a few buttons. Once clothing became a type of wearable machine, sex became much more complicated (and maybe more took on greater intentionality…there wasn’t any “oh, we were just fooling around and he pulled me on his lap and then he penetrated me” happenstance about it.) I’d have to think that through.

  5. Bridgett, I feel cheated by life that I can’t come over to your house once a month, talk about what I’m writing, and have you help me concoct period-appropriate sex scenes.

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