Project Report – Dreamers Do Lie

Project Report – Dreamers Do Lie

Recently I’ve realized, while I talk a lot about writing in general, I don’t really talk about my projects. Much of it comes from fear of inadvertently spoiling what happens in a story. But part of it is focusing so hard on getting through my writing goals, I forget to talk about what I’m doing (whoops).

A little more than a decade ago, James and I finished our first draft of Island of Lost Forevers, but we abandoned our first attempt at Crossroads of Frozen Eternity only halfway through the first draft. It wasn’t that we lost interest in the story; a lot was going on in both our lives. We interacted less, which made progress difficult. On top of that, we were struggling to find representation for the first novel (which may have turned out to be a good thing in the long run) and we both grew frustrated with how things were going.

Rather than stress about the struggle to move forward with that project, I turned my attention to another. As with so many of my novels, this idea came from a dream. The dream consisted of a burning boat on which a man dueled with a demon over custody of a princess. The demon pleaded with the princess to remember what she said about the sword that strikes for her heart. I woke up wondering what was going on and ended up constructing an entire story to explain it – as you do.

This eventually became the foundation for Dreamers Do Lie, a high fantasy epic about an innocent soul’s journey to escape Hell and prevent a war between ancient gods.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Divine Comedy, and much of my inspiration for Dreamers Do Lie came from Dante’s Inferno. I also drew inspiration from Greek mythology to create my version of Hell. Rather than nine rings, I went with seven, loosely based on the sorting system presented in Dante’s Inferno. The story also features all five rivers mentioned in Greek mythology as being associated with Hell; Acheron, Cocytus, Lethe, Phlegethon and (of course) the Styx. Each river has its own magical property; Lethe is the river of memory (and it can steal all memory from those who drink from it), Styx is the river of hate (and it can turn anyone who drinks from it into a slavering fiend). And Phlegethon is the river of fire – a river that burns day and night.

I don’t remember how long it took to complete the first draft of Dreamers Do Lie. I was still trying to gain my Canadian Citizenship, so I couldn’t yet work (though that changed shortly after I finished the first draft). I was also young as a writer and the first draft was very messy. It totaled 169,496 words – mostly due to repetition.

Shortly after I finished the first draft, I tried to edit it. But I quickly grew frustrated with my efforts. I had read all the advice, of course, about killing your darlings. But everything seemed so perfect to me, I couldn’t bring myself to change much. My mother-in-law even read over it and made a bunch of notes, but to me it didn’t feel like much. Shouldn’t editing be more than moving a couple of commas and correcting a bunch of typos?

Eventually I shelved this project and moved on to another one. But then I finally had that eureka moment. I learned how to polish my own work. I went back to Island of Lost Forevers, determined to finish the entire trilogy. And by the time I reached the third book, I knew what I wanted my next project to be. After all, if I could finish the Mystical Island Trilogy, it was time to give Dreamers Do Lie another spin. Not to mention finally finishing the story.

The true second draft of Dreamers Do Lie kept to the original story (with a few much-needed tweaks) but was basically re-written from scratch. It covered more ground than the original and still managed to ring in at only 102,771 words. This time, I breezed through the edits, blithely polishing my prose. In fact, I did my job a little too well and ended up having to add a couple thousand words back in to the next draft, after my beta readers pointed out that there were some details missing (which I had cut without thinking).

Last year, while my beta readers tore through Dreamers Do Lie, I finally sat down to write the sequel; Life is But a Dream. While Dreamers Do Lie takes place mostly in Hell, Life is But a Dream opens up the mortal world, introducing a new cast of characters from a wide range of lands while Kaylie, the innocent soul from Dreamers Do Lie, is forced to make some difficult decisions about how her kingdom will survive the latest war between Heaven and Hell.

It was a daunting story to write. There were times I didn’t feel equal to the task. I had to research a lot of ancient cultures, and their warfare tactics. I had to delve into a lot of ancient mythologies and ask a lot of tough questions of my characters. But in June of this year, I finally sent a polished draft of Life is But a Dream to beta readers. (My mother-in-law waited over a decade to find out how that story ends!)

Though I’ve learned a lot about self-publishing since I first released Island of Lost Forevers three years ago, I’ve always hoped to become a hybrid author one day. I know some of my projects are best suited to self-publication, but I think there are some that would work well in the traditional world. I think Dreamers Do Lie fits the latter category. So I’ve spent the last couple months preparing to query agents for representation. It will be a long road to publication, whichever path Dreamers Do Lie takes, but I’m excited to see the outcome either way. Cross your fingers for me and wish me luck!

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