I created Dreamer’s Sanctuary in April of 2000 as an experiment. I was a high school freshman who’d had a little instruction in web design via Microsoft Word in junior high, and I was curious to see if I could start a real website of my own, a place to house my growing body of fan fiction.
I had been writing fanfic for a few months, after stumbling onto it in the summer of 1999 when I was merely searching for Backstreet Boys websites. I’d been a fan of the Backstreet Boys since early 1998, a hardcore fan since around the time Millennium came out in May of ’99. The first fanfic site that popped up in my search results was “J.J. and Jojo’s Page,” which featured a story called Blind Love. When I clicked on the story, I’d never heard of such a thing – a fan writing a made-up story about the Backstreet Boys? – but it was about my favorite Boy, Brian, and I was immediately sucked in. I plowed through the story, unable to turn away, and cried through its tearjerker ending. When I was done, I printed it out, not realizing it was fifty pages long – a lot of printer paper, at the time! – and put it in a binder to show all my friends. I still have that binder with Blind Love, the story that started my fan fiction addiction. After reading that one, I was desperate for more, and I spent most of the summer of 1999 searching for and reading all the fanfic I could.
I never saw myself actually writing the stuff, until I read a short story called “The Dream” that inspired the idea for my first attempt at a story, Years of Grace. Unable to get the idea out of my head, I decided to try my hand at turning it into a story. I had only written stories for school before, never for fun, but I found that I enjoyed writing about the Backstreet Boys. I hadn’t yet finished Years of Grace when I got another story idea that I pursued. This was Heartache, which became the first story I finished and published online.
I was nervous about posting a story online, but also curious for feedback, so I sent Heartache to a site called “Escape from Reality” and, later, one called “Dreamer’s Reality,” to be hosted. Through this exposure, I got my first piece of feedback from a girl named Rachel, who went on to become my first close online friend and started hosting my stories on her site, “Starlight Catcher’s Page.”
Once I got started writing fanfic, I was a machine. I churned out at least a chapter a day of whatever story I was working on and averaged a story a month, from start to finish. None of these stories were very good; in fact, they were pretty bad. But I was inspired, and I was productive! Because I churned out chapters faster than my hosts wanted to update their sites, I found myself getting impatient and longed for a website of my own that I could update whenever I had something to post.
After registering an account with Yahoo! Geocities and playing around on Microsoft Word, Dreamer’s Sanctuary was born. It started as a small website, just my few stories and a few of my favorite stories by other authors that I’d gotten permission to host. As it expanded, I started running out of file space and bandwidth on my original Geocities account, so I made the jump to a domain in September 2001, and dreamers-sanctuary.com was born. Over the years, the site grew to be the home to over 150 stories! As of December 2012, there were 174 works of fan fiction on Dreamer’s Sanctuary.
In 2013, I made a major upgrade to the site, moving from Microsoft Word to WordPress for my web design platform and switching hosts from Yahoo! to Bluehost. This increased functionality and accessibility for my visitors, making it easier for them to view the site and read stories in any browser, using any resolution, and on any device, including tablets and smartphones. At the same time, I downsized the new website site by discontinuing the hosting of other authors’ stories and archiving the older stories found on the old site. The result was a sleeker, simpler-to-navigate fan fiction site.
In over a decade of existence, Dreamer’s Sanctuary has been through its ups and downs, its periods of productivity and its slumps. It has had many looks and layouts, and it has seen many of my “great ideas” come and go, the truly great ones lasting. Visitor counts have risen and dropped, as fanfic readers have come and gone, and as I’ve finished old stories and started new ones.
I don’t claim to have the biggest or best Bsb fanfic site out there, but one thing I can say with pride about Dreamer’s Sanctuary is this: it has outlasted many of its counterparts, and I have no plans to shut it down anytime soon. This website is my baby, my hobby and my most long-lasting creative endeavor. As long as I am a fan of the Backstreet Boys, of writing, and of good stories, this site will remain up and open, a staple to a fandom which has seen so many other websites and authors come and go. I hope that you, too, will stick around and continue to visit Dreamer’s Sanctuary! I appreciate your support, for without visitors and readers, all the work I’ve put into maintaining this space on the web would be pointless.
I unfortunately don’t have screencaps for most of the older layouts, but maybe some of you who have been coming to the site for awhile will remember. The newer layouts have screencaps; click on the thumbnail to enlarge the picture.
Version 1.0 – Sky (clouds, then stars)
(April 2000-October 2001)
Version 3.0 – Shades of Purple
(March 2002-August 2002)
Version 4.0 – Shades of Orange
(August 2002-December 2002)
Version 5.0 – Metallic Pink
(December 2002-April 2003)
I always do something with the site for April Fools. Some years I’m more clever than others…
2001: My first April Fools, 4/1/01, I just said that I was shutting down the site – creative, right? Haha.
2002: The second year, I replaced my lovely purple AJ/Bsb layout with a fruity purple NSYNC layout and said that I had converted to an NSYNC fan and was going to start writing NSYNC fic instead. That one went over well LOL.
2003: My friend Bianca and I conspired together and switched the index pages of our sites so that when you went to www.dreamers-sanctuary.com, you got her page, The Backstreet Market, and when you went to www.backstreet-market.net, you got Dreamer’s Sanctuary. People were definitely puzzled over that one.
I don’t have screenshots of any of those old pranks, but I have kept the April Fools updates from the last few years. Click below to see what the site looked like on April 1 of each year…
2004: Angelfire Error Page
Remember the old error pages that would come up for broken links on Angelfire sites? My site was never hosted on Angelfire (Geocities all the way, baby!), but I copied and then customized my own funny (at the time) Angelfire error pages. Hit the back button on your browser to get a new message; there are 20 in all!
I couldn’t think of anything particularly great this year and ended up just mirror-imaging or turning upside down my layout. Make sure you click the image on the first page to see the main page.
2006: Tanja’s BUSTED
A Danish girl named Tanja plagiarized 9 stories from my site and switched the guys’ names to a group called Busted a couple months before this year’s April Fools, so I changed the site to look like she had hacked it and put the Busted guys faces over BSB on the layout and changed all of the author’s names to hers. Make sure you click on the links to the story pages.
2007: Version BLUE
I threw together a trippy layout with the most obnoxious song ever (the Kidz Bop version of “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” – click here if it doesn’t play automatically on the site anymore) and called it my new layout. I also posted a fake chapter of By My Side, which you can still read here.
2009: Cease and Desist
I put up a fake cease and desist letter from Nick’s lawyer, which basically called my fanfics slander and threatened to sue if I didn’t remove them from my site.
With Twitter being so popular, I announced that for financial reasons and simplicity’s sake, I would be shutting down my domain and posting my stories exclusively on Twitter, 140 characters at a time! Needless to say, the idea is so ridiculous that I didn’t fool many people. ;)
2011: Members Only
This year, my inspiration was other fanfic writers/websites of years past and present who require visitors to register memberships in order to read their stories and sell merchandise for their site and stories. I spoofed this idea by making the site look as if it required a paid subscription to access the stories and other features. I also had my stories and merchandise for them on sale. Years ago, some friends and I made a fake fanfic merchandise site for our own amusement, mocking this sort of behavior, which is where all the Broken “merchandise” came from. The Broken Nick doll really exists, courtesy of my friend Susan, who made and sent it to me as a birthday gift back in 2004.
2012: The Cancer Carter Chronicles
After finishing Curtain Call this past year, I had to poke a little fun at myself with this fake series, consisting of only Nick cancer stories. I wrote two chapters of a spoof story called Half the Man I Used to Be to really sell the joke, but I think the banner may have given me away. ;)
2013: Behind the Curtain
Having sworn off sequels, spin-offs, and companion stories, I wrote a joke companion story to my novel Curtain Call, a one-shot called Behind the Curtain. Set up to look like a typical “main character tries to move on with her life while mourning the loss of her beloved” angst fest, it takes a darkly comedic twist and turns out to be quite different. Between work and Easter, I didn’t have the time/energy to actually write the story UNTIL April 1st, so I also posted a fake blog in the morning to stall for time and throw my readers off until I could get the real prank posted that night.
2014: The Gay Side of the Sanctuary!
The idea for this one came from a comment left by a newbie on my forum that said “Just so I’m clear, I won’t read *any* slash/gay/bi-sexual stories here.” Back when I used to host stories, I always had a no-slash policy and never read or wrote them myself. I had experimented with a short slash story (Unsuspecting Sunday) the previous summer just to see if I could write one seriously, and surprisingly, not only could I, but it gave me an idea for a longer novel (Sick as My Secrets). So for April Fools, I segregated my slash stories to their own site – a very, very, stereotypically gay site – called Double Rainbow /Fiction. “Like Dreamer’s Sanctuary, ‘butt’ gayer!”
2015: Into the Millennium
In honor of Dreamer’s Sanctuary’s upcoming fifteenth birthday, I took it back to how it looked fifteen years ago, when I was fifteen myself, with a throwback layout full of tacky tiled backgrounds, cheesy BSB pics, animated gifs, Comic Sans font, and obnoxious midis playing in the background. While I no longer had all the files to duplicate the original Dreamer’s Sanctuary exactly, the original site had a cloud background and purple Comic Sans font, just like this one, and each page had its own unique background and midi playing. I may have exaggerated a little with the craziness of the backgrounds and all the animated gifs, but trust me, it’s not that far off.
2016: Nick Plague
After doing VIP at Nick’s All American show in Chicago, I really did come down with a touch of Nick Plague – which, for those who aren’t familiar, is the virus that infects many fans who come into contact with Nick (who is always sick and doesn’t wash his hands after using the bathroom). Its symptoms resemble that of the common cold, only they can last for weeks. Anyway, mine was only a mild case, but since it coincided with spring break and April Fool’s Day, I decided to milk it for all it was worth and make it the subject of my annual site April Fool’s prank. I made a fake journal and fundraising site to keep friends updated on my condition, as well as a fake website with information about Nick Plague. I’m happy to say I have since made a full recovery!