Saturday, August 2, 2014

No Cubbyholes!

By J.J. DiBenedetto (Guest Blogger)

I’m J.J. DiBenedetto, author of the Dream Series, and I’m thrilled that Lisabet has turned her blog over to me for a few minutes.

This is the point where I would normally tell you what genre the Dream Series is, but that’s the trick. I don’t really have a good answer for that, and it’s been one of my biggest challenges since I published the first book in the series a year and a half ago.

I imagine that sounds ridiculous: “You wrote it,” I can hear you saying, “how can you not know what genre it is?” But it’s true. The problem is, I didn’t set out to write a mystery, or a paranormal romance, or a New Adult novel, or a romantic suspense story. I just sat down and wrote the story that was in my head, which turned out to have elements of all those genres, without actually falling easily into any one of them.

I didn’t want to change the story to fit it more conveniently into one, easily-defined genre. Partly, I guess, pride was involved. But, honestly, the real truth is that the story went where the characters took it, which is often not at all where I planned or expected it to go. And I wasn’t about to second-guess them.

Taking the series as a whole, it’s a little bit easier, because I can at least make an argument that it’s a subspecies of the cozy mystery genre. All the books follow our heroine, Sara, and her husband (and, as the books go on, children) as they cope with Sara’s gift (or curse), the ability to step into other people’s dreams. In each book, the dreams show Sara a problem that (thanks to her unique perspective) only she can solve. In the first book, Dream Student, it’s hunting down a serial killer. In book #2, Dream Doctor, it’s figuring out who intends to kill one of Sara’s medical school teachers (when it seems that everyone who knows him wouldn’t mind seeing him dead). Looked at from that viewpoint: a husband-and-wife team of amateur detectives solve a crime in each book, the answer is obvious.

But then there’s the supernatural aspect: the dreams. And there’s a lot more of Sara’s everyday life and challenges in each book (getting through her first month of medical school, or dealing with a precocious four-year-old daughter or, in the eighth book, which is still in progress, coping with a boy-crazy teenaged daughter who’s starting to make some very bad choices), and time passes in each book – Sara is twenty one in the first book, and she’s thirty seven in the book I’m working on now. And the romance element is always present – Sara’s relationship with her husband is central to the books.

So it’s a challenge to define the books, and that’s made it a challenge to sell them to readers. But they books wouldn’t let me write them any other way, so it’s a challenge I’m happy to have!

The first book in the series takes place in college, and in the winter of 1989-90, and here’s a little bit more about Dream Student.

What if you could see everyone else's dreams?

College junior Sara Barnes thought her life was under control.  Her biggest worries were her upcoming final exams, applying to medical school, Christmas shopping and what to do about the cute freshman in the next dorm who's got a crush on her.  Until the dreams started...
Now she's learning more than she ever wanted to know about everyone around her.  Watching the hidden fantasies and seeing the deepest secrets of her friends and classmates is bad enough.  But much worse are the recurring dreams of a strange, terrifying man... dreams that could cost Sara her sanity... or get her killed.

There’s a sound, my Dad clearing his throat, and I’m back in the here and now. He looks at the picture in my hand, and then, with a very odd expression on his face he wags his finger at me. “I think I need to meet your young man.”

“You’re going to, Dad. On Sunday.” What’s going on?

He’s still got that expression. He’s looking at me as though he’s noticing something he’s never seen before. “I see so much of your mother in you. I don’t think you realize how like her you are,” he says, finally.

I do, actually. I look a lot like her. I’ve seen pictures of her when she was young, and if you didn’t know it you might think you were looking at me. I start to say that, but he shakes his head.

“It’s not just that you look like her,” he says, reading my mind. “It’s–well, I was watching you just now. I saw how your eyes lit up when you were thinking about your Brian.” How long was I staring at that picture?

“Nobody else has eyes like yours. Nobody else’s are that bright. Nobody else’s light up the way yours did just now. Except…” and now he chokes up a bit, and he has to have some water before he can go on, “Nobody except your mother. How you looked just now, that’s how she looks sometimes, when she’s looking at me.”


Oh, my.

I didn’t expect that. “Um–I–I don’t know–Dad, I’m not sure what…” As I’m babbling, it hits me. I’ve heard this before. From Brian, the night we met, at the club. He said something very similar to me, and suddenly I’m feeling dizzy, and warm. I have to hold on to the edge of the table to steady myself.

“I saw it, honey,” he says with a gentle smile. “I see it right now. You’re done for. This Brian, he’s in your heart. You can’t hide that, and you can’t fake it, either.”

I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with my father. But he’s right. Brian’s in my heart, that’s exactly how it is. There’s no point pretending it’s not true. And it’s such a relief to have someone really and truly get what I’m feeling. Even if it is Dad.

“Can I ask you something?” My voice is very small and very far away. I still need to hang on to the table for support.

“Always. Anything. You know that,” he says.

I already know the answer, but I want to hear it anyway. I let go of the table and my hands are shaking. 

“Sometimes when I look at him, when I look into his eyes, I mean really look into them, and he catches mine, it’s like everything else just disappears. Like we’re the only two people in the whole world. Even if we’re in a crowd, or at the movies or wherever. Is it like that with you and Mom?”

He reaches across the table, takes my hands in his. “Boy, you do have it bad. Worst case I ever saw. Or the second-worst, anyway.” He lets go of my hands. “It was. It was exactly like that.”
Dream Student is the first book of the Dream Series.

You can buy it at:

About JJ

J.J. (James) Dibenedetto's fans would swear he's got a sixth sense when it comes to seeing into the minds of others and often wonder if his stories could possibly be fiction. He enjoys suspending disbelief with suspenseful paranormal tales that are a perfect blend of reality meets fantasy.

His popular Dream Series continues to delight readers with each and every exciting installment.

Born in Yonkers, New York, he currently resides in Arlington Virginia with his beautiful wife and a cat he is sure has taken full advantage of its nine lives. When it comes to the cat, he often wonders, but then again it might just be his imagination.

You can follow JJ at


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, J.J.,

Welcome to Beyond Romance!

This sounds like a really interesting series. Eight books so far - seems as though Sara has completely taken over your imagination!

Thanks for being my guest.

James D said...

Thanks for hosting me, Lisabet! And yes, she pretty much has taken over my imagination completely. That's exactly how it feels!

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