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Cue trumpets and fanfare- I just finished the second-to-the-last rewrite on the current novel!  And with stellar timing, I’ve been tagged in a rolling blog which give us writerly  types an excuse to write about our WIP (work in progress).  Thank you, Jackie Hames over at the Spidereen Frigate, for the tap because, ironically, my WIP has kept me from blogging or doing much of anything else since October.  So, this is a nice way to get back into the groove of semi-normal life and hopefully spark your interest in what is sure to be:

The Next Big Thing

What is the working title of your book?

The Dark Side of Dreaming

Where did the idea for the book come from?

A combination of many things including the question “what would I write if I let myself write exactly what I wanted to?”, a failed experiment with anti-depressants which repressed my normally robust dream activity, and a ‘long dark tea time of the soul’ that led me to question my addiction to fantasy.

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary fantasy.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition of your book?

Be warned, I am old. So very old.  I haven’t kept up with all with the new whippersnappers out there, so let’s just imagine these people in their twenties.  For my protagonist, Zoe, who is tough, feisty and properly screwed up as a protagonist should be, I’d go with Janine Turner in her Northern Exposure days. Tough, cute, tomboyish in a drop dead sexy kind of way.  For my main hero dude, Zander the shaman-in-training with the weight of the world on his shoulders, how about Johnny Depp? Not the bat-guano crazy Johnny but more like when he played a gypsy in that movie, Chocolat.  For Zoe’s cousin Mariah, Gwyneth Paltrow comes to mind.  Snooty, pretty, smart and tough beneath the cashmere cardigan and matching pearl set.  For Jake, Zander’s rival and the guy with the dangerous powers he doesn’t know he has, I’m thinking Orlando Bloom, as elf or pirate or crusader, because he is so damn cute I want him in all my movies!

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

As the ordinary world and the Dreamed realities hidden within it begin to collide, small town waitress and repressed Dreamer Zoe Tidwell must overcome personal and societal prejudice in order to reclaim her powers and stop a malevolent Dreamer’s nightmare from destroying both worlds.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

All the top publishers will be fighting over this one.

How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About four months.  I was horrified to find it weighing in at over 600 pages. I just finished the fourth draft and am approaching the one year mark.  Crazy fast for a book this long!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This is a tough one because I’m grafting an epic fantasy quest storyline with a snappy contemporary fantasy style and setting.  I have multiple characters with interweaving plots and traditional fairy tale tropes in the modern world.  I’m hard pressed to think of another novel quite like this.  Let’s just say it’s like The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks meets Magic to The Bone by Devon Monk.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I followed the advice found in Chris Baty‘s book “No Plot? No Problem!” in which he suggests you write down your personal writer’s Magna Carta, a list of what you love in novels, and then write that.  My list included; Adventure, Magic, Mystery, exotic locales, lost civilizations, eccentric characters, deep bonds of friendship (imperiled, naturally), silliness, sexy guys and tough girls, real danger, and an underlying sense of goodness in the Universe.  Okay, no problem!  Only I still had no plot.  Then, as I prepared for a trip to Germany and the Czech Republic, I stumbled on the book – Prague: The Mystical City, by Joseph Wechsberg.  Writing about the history of the Mala Strana neighborhood, Wechsberg describes it as an “aristocratic enclave of Baroque palaces, monasteries and churches, of astronomers, adventurers and alchemists.”

"A big stone book, full of pathos and enigma" Julius Zeyer

Prague ~ “A big stone book, full of pathos and enigma” Julius Zeyer

So, I still had no plot, but I had a first sentence, which was and still is ” The alchemist, the astrologer and the adventurer walked along the winding cobblestone streets of The City, embroiled in noisy discussion.”  I had many ideas twisting around in my noggin, and just started writing from that point like a fiend, with no outline, no plan, only characters and a magic system based on dreams that can change reality.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Here’s a favorite little snippet of mine from the middle of the book featuring Federal Agent Wayne Grady, a Dream Tracker who’s mission is to track down and eliminate illegal Dreams:

The phone went silent, as if the dragon emitted phone-blocking rays.  It emerged from the tunnel, and despite his best intentions, he couldn’t help gawking at it.  It stood twice as high as the tunnel, and as it unfolded its wings, its belly flashed emerald green and gold in the faint light.  It stood on its hind legs and looked down on him like he might provide a tasty snack.

“Shit.”  He stared out to sea.  “Here be dragons, my ass.”  Anger swelled in him.  This was all so wrong.  Hadn’t mankind outgrown this nonsense hundreds of years ago, like in the renaissance?  The goddamn age of reason?  Hadn’t he outgrown it, the second he was old enough to say ‘no’ to his Dream obsessed dad? He looked at the phone, no more bars, and stuck it in his pocket.  No anti-dragon apps out here anyway.  He forced his breathing to calm, even as the bridge shuddered beneath the weight of the Dream.

“You do not exist,” he said, and began walking casually back toward solid ground.

The dragon made a strange bellowing noise and flames licked around his feet.  After a few moments of extreme discomfort, he could no longer deny that he was indeed on fire.

He fell to the wet pavement and rolled, cursing all the while. The dragon chuckled, puffs of black smoke chugging out of it like a train.  Wayne leapt to his feet and ran from the bridge.  The thing didn’t pursue.  Its job was to guard the bridge.  That much seemed obvious.  What wasn’t obvious was why.  What or who was hiding in Florence?  He stopped when he reached the end of the bridge.

The dragon stood in the same place, wings lifted like a cormorant drying its feathers.  It really was magnificent.  These were no ordinary Dreamers he was up against.  This was Black Forest, age of myth shit.  This was Pavlova’s realm of expertise.  As he descended the road to the park, he tried to think of what he might do to win her back to the side of reality.

Now I get to tag other people to keep this thing going. Luckily I know some amazing writers!

Lisa Alber, Pam Herber