Announcing a New Project – Once Upon a Dream

Announcing a New Project – Once Upon a Dream

In 2011, our family decided to take a Christmas trip to Belize. It was shortly before I started blogging regularly, so I’ve since written a great deal about the trip. A few weeks before the trip, an idea came to me. The timing makes it easy to date its origin (unlike some of my other ideas). Like many of the other novels I’ve written, this idea came from a dream.

Back then, my husband still worked at a bagel shop. Which meant that, most mornings, he had to get up at 5am so that he could have bagels ready for the shoppers when the store opened a few hours later. But every year, he was required to work one night shift, to prepare for a major Jewish holiday, during which the store saw a lot of business.

We both hated those night shifts. Obviously, my husband wasn’t thrilled with how long he had to stay awake and how long it took to correct his sleep schedule afterward. But I hated them because I don’t sleep well when he’s not home. I never have. Except that one time in 2011.

It wasn’t the best sleep I’ve ever had, I’ll admit. But I slept – and that’s an accomplishment. Every now and then I would wake up, roll over and then drift back to sleep. I was having a dream. Every time I woke up, I thought it would end, but when I went back to sleep, it would simply resume where it left off.

The dream told me a story.

Most of the novels I’ve written that started as dreams didn’t give me much to work with. Dreamers Do Lie featured a knight and a demon fighting over a princess on a burning boat. And from that sprang two novels, each around 100,000 words long. Symphony of the Stars spawned 9 books all told, each roughly 70,000 – 80,000 words in length. But the dream that spawned it left me only vague impressions of a set of characters and their relationships. The rest of the inspiration came from music and musing.

This dream was different. It gave me a plot. During the dream, I was stuck in a strange world, like the one I lived in but different. This dream world was full of magical creatures like faeries and elves. It had all the same technology I was used to from cars to street lights to cell phones. But it also had magic and swords and castles, just like any other epic fantasy story.

When the dream started, I was locked in some kind of hospital. My dream care-takers kept telling me I was sick, possibly even losing my mind. But then a voice in my head led me through a secret door in a wall that granted me access to the outside world. This voice also gave me a quest: find Domerin.

I write about Domerin a lot; it only takes a glance around this blog to notice. And if you’ve read his introduction, you know he proceeded this dream by several years. So it wasn’t strange that I dreamed about him. But it was the most comprehensive character dream I’ve ever experienced. Since after I found Domerin, we embarked on a series of quests.

The idea planted a seed.

After I woke from this dream, I spent some time talking to my long-time writing partner. A few of his characters had featured in the dream and I wanted to know what he thought about the outcome. After some back and forth, we decided to play around in the world of the dream and see what we could get from it. The results were astounding.

First off, I expected Domerin to be drawn toward a certain character romantically. But he wasn’t. He latched onto someone else entirely, transforming several aspects of the plot in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Instead of fighting that pull, I decided to move with it and follow the thread to its logical end. I’m glad I did, because it cemented a lot of the key points of the story.

I carried my thoughts about this story with me while we were in Belize. Often a song playing in the background at the resort, or an interaction I glimpsed on the beach would spark an idea. It’s funny how I can think of that trip and, not only do the sights and sounds come flooding back, but the ideas do as well. The way our brains store and access data is weird, but wonderful, and it’s nice to have a way to trigger the mood for this particular story.

While we were there, I jotted down the outline of the plot in my notebook. I’ve carried those pages with me from Toronto to Quebec, from Quebec to England, and eventually back to British Columbia where I live now. A few weeks ago I got to pull them out and sift through them, because they’re finally going to be relevant.

The seed grew into a forest.

After my initial planning session, my writing partner and I fiddled with the setting and its plot for several years. We let our ideas flow naturally, agreeing that everything could be changed later if need be. Tending the seeds we planted allowed them to grow a spectacular garden. And suddenly we had years worth of character backgrounds and potential future plans at our fingertips, weaving together to form a spectacular foundation for a generational story.

Finally, I understood how epic fantasy world building worked.

While the story has certainly come to center around Domerin, the most interesting part of the planning stages has been developing a modern fantasy world. I’ve had a lot of fun blending elements of modern technology with classic elements of epic fantasy. For instance, you’ll find a security troll standing guard over the police headquarters. And if you’re feeling a little anxious this morning, you can always take a shot of courage in your morning coffee – just mention it to the barista when you order. And if you know a naughty wizard, be sure to remind him that wizard prison involves being shrunk down to inhabit a fancy computer, so he might want to make sure his experiments are well within the law.

Many of my stories have spent a lot of time in development, but none so much as this one. So it will be interesting to dig my fingers in and see where things go.

I’m finally ready to share this forest with the world!

But I have to admit, it also feels a little odd to finally start work on this project. It’s been hovering in the background of my life for almost 9 years. Properly blowing off the dust and bringing it into the forefront of my focus is exciting, but also nerve wracking.

On the one hand, I’m a much better writer than I was when I first came up with this idea. I know how to weave together a complex set of storylines to form a coherent whole. Symphony of the Stars taught me that. And I know how to make my words pack a lot more punch than they used to. Re-writing Dreamers Do Lie taught me that.

But am I a good enough writer to handle something that may well turn out to be my opus? I’m not sure.

Then again, each new story I write tests my limits and teaches me how to stretch them. To a certain extent, that’s what writing is all about. If the story wasn’t going to be challenging to write, it might not be worth the effort at all.

And for all the time and energy I’ve spent developing this plot and its setting over the years, I know I still have new things to discover. Just a few months ago I had a serious ah-ha moment that convinced me it is, indeed, finally time to pick up this plot and run with it.

I’ll be talking a bit more about the creation of this setting in the coming weeks, as I finish up my notes. But in the mean time, feel free to check out the cast of this upcoming series. It’s going to feel great finally putting their stories in concrete form!

The big players are: Domerin, Rose, Silkfoot and Cazella!

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