Once upon a Shoe

Once upon a Shoe is my first published book, and it’s also the book that I took the longest to work on. Part of that was figuring out the world, which my other published books share, but a lot of it was fear of showing it to anyone and worrying that nobody would like it. Before Utopiacon 2016, I had no intention of ever publishing this or any other books, despite the ideas floating in my head. But my husband has a big mouth and before I know it, what was supposed to simply be a chance to meet some of my favorite authors became a huge wave of encouragement from them and other authors who were at the convention. Due to their influence, I started to consider the idea that I could be an author myself. I wasn’t entirely certain if I wanted to publish yet, but I left more open to the idea and determined to at least write this story.

I think it was maybe late 2017 when I asked for feedback from a few other authors. But it wasn’t until early to mid 2018 before I reached out to my editor and scheduled her services. It was especially challenging to not allow myself to continue to tweak my story while I waited for my scheduled time to get it edited because that wouldn’t happen until late 2018. By the time both rounds of editing was done, it was early 2019. Once I finished editing, I hit publish and listed it on Booksprout for reviews all one the same day. I waited to enroll it in KU until after the due date I had set for the Booksprout reviews.

Anyway, I should get to the details of the book itself. I’ll try to keep the spoilers minimal, but I make no guarantees. If you don’t want any spoilers for my book, stop reading this now, because I can’t not give at least some spoilers and talk about my version.

It’s interesting how far an idea can change when you’re writing a book. For Once upon a Shoe, my idea started with the stepmother, Iris. I started off wondering what if the stepmother isn’t the stereotypical bad guy that she is usually is? Although I’ve since read a different version that answers this same question, I hadn’t seen anything even remotely similar to the concept before I started working on this in 2016. Most of my first draft based on this idea was cut in later drafts because I realized that I was writing more than one story. About half of my very rough first draft was written from Iris’ point of view and took place before Ella was even born. Iris will still get her own story later because for many reasons it is near and dear to my heart, but I realized that for a Cinderella story, I was starting it way too early.

Aside from knowing that I wanted a nice stepmother, I went in with a few strong ideas of what I did and didn’t want to bring in from the originals. I wanted my prince to have a personality, closer to the Pharaoh of Rhodopis than the boring prince of most versions. But unlike Rhodopis’ pharaoh, I made Aeden a bit jaded. I mean, I couldn’t see why a prince would be happy to just go along with the idea that he needs to pick a bride at the ball from a bunch of random strangers. The fact that Ella and Aeden were friends was another early decision.

Of course, the fact that they were best friends early on gave me the problem of deciding exactly how and why they weren’t close anymore by the time the necessary ball came around. Although I didn’t save most of the earliest drafts, this problem was one that I approached from several different directions before I made my final decision on having the split happen during the funeral. And even that scene went through numerous revisions before I felt like I had it right.

I mentioned in my post about my favorite Cinderella’s that Ever After is my absolute favorite version, and I certainly drew inspiration from that version in the idea that I had one nice stepsister and a mean one. But I certainly needed to know exactly why Anna (the mean stepsister in my book) was acting the way she did. In many versions I’ve read, I have always felt like there was a lack of motivation being shown for the evil stepfamily, so it was important to me to make sure that I did let that shine through, even though the task wasn’t an easy one without letting Anna be a point of view character. If you’re a newsletter subscriber, I have an early prologue (among other scenes) on my subscriber page that was from her point of view. If you aren’t on my mailing list and you want to check out my subscriber page, you can sign up here. Whether you subscribe or not, I do have plans to give Anna her own story in the future.

If you didn’t just stumble on this post without any knowledge about me, you probably know that my Once upon a Story series is made up of standalone stories that include little Easter eggs for other books in the series. The biggest reason I chose to write them as standalone is because as a reader, I have a love/hate relationship with series. It can be really difficult to get to the end of a book only to find out that the story isn’t over and the next book won’t be out for some unknown amount of time. Since I had several ideas for this world, and no idea how long it would take for me to finish all of them, I wanted to make sure not to leave readers hanging with a cliffhanger ending. Some of the Easter eggs were pretty big and others are more subtle. The one for my second book, Once upon a Silent Song, was certainly much smaller than what I wrote in for my third book, Once upon a Rose. Then there are the threads to stories yet to come, though not everything is connected to this story. I wonder how many you’ve found?

Since I’ve mentioned all of the major decisions I made for the book, I should probably stop before I spoil the whole thing, LOL. But if you have any specific questions, let me know in the comments and I’d love to answer it for you.

If you haven’t read it yet, you can find Once upon a Shoe on Amazon. It’s free to read in KU. And here’s the official description:

Magic shoes, family problems, and a midnight deadline… How much do you really know about Cinderella’s fairytale?

Ella always knew she’d marry for love or not at all. She wanted nothing less in a marriage than the obvious affection she witnessed between her father and her stepmother, Iris. But when her father disappears and Iris sinks into depression, Ella cuts herself off from the rest of the world as she struggles with her own emotions, a disgruntled stepsister, and an overwhelming workload. Armed with a fragile hope, she must go to the royal ball to find her father. But a reunion with her childhood best friend threatens to shatter the walls she’s built around her heart.

Crown Prince Aeden always hated his status. He felt like social engagements and propriety were a waste of his time and energy, especially with girls who were just interested in a crown. One such confrontation with Ella led to the start of an unlikely friendship. Over time, Aeden realizes that his feelings for Ella have evolved into something more. But before he can tell her, tragedy strikes and Ella pushes him away. When he finally sees her, Aeden is determined to do whatever it takes to not lose her again. He must convince Ella that they are meant to be together before his time runs out.

Stepmothers aren’t always villains and princes aren’t always charming. With so much uncertainty, do they have what it takes to create a happy ending?

The Once upon a Story series consists of interconnected standalones that can be read in any order.

The Original Versions of Cinderella

Image by Angeline 1 from Pixabay

When it comes to fairytales, there’s rarely, if ever, a clear cut “original” version because the stories tend to be old and stem from multiple cultures. I don’t intend to go into even all of the versions I researched prior to writing Once upon a Shoe, because even that many versions would make this post too long. Before I begin, I want to mention that this is just my perception of these versions and that I am writing this off of memory and the last time I read any of these was right before I started writing Once upon a Shoe back in 2016.

My earliest experiences of any fairytales, including Cinderella stemmed from animated films, including the Disney version and other more obscure versions that I can’t even remember who made them. By the time I was in middle school, the library was practically my second home and I read all of the books on fairytales that the small library in my town had to offer, though I wouldn’t be able to name any of the authors or editors who compiled those books. Now, my favorite starting place when researching fairytales is a website called SurLaLune, though I still read any books I can get my hands on. If you want to check it out, here’s the link to a ton of Cinderella versions on their site. The University of Pittsburgh also has a wealth of resources that you can find for fairytales. Here’s their link to some Cinderella tales.

Although the different versions, and even different translations of the same version can be widely varied, there are some common trends that are in most, if not all early versions and their retellings. Cinderella is generally a rags to riches story. Usually, she is considered a virtuous, often kind person who is mistreated in some way near the beginning of the story before something (typically a ball) happens that gives her an opportunity for a change in circumstances. Cinderella has some help in bridging the gap for her opportunity, whether magical or divine intervention or otherwise, and of course she ends up marrying a prince (or someone similar) after being identified by her shoe and she lives happily ever after. This is my very basic interpretation of how the different versions connect.

The two older versions that are best known are those by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Perrault’s version is recognizable in most retellings, including Disney’s versions. Perrault’s tale was highly focused on morality and the importance of certain virtues. Cendrillon is described as so very kind and patient and gracious that I’ve always felt the character was too good to be true. But in some translations, I feel like her kindness is more of an act than anything because in those translations she comes off more like a martyr to me than someone who is genuine, but maybe I’m reading too much into it. Perrault’s version brings in the fairy godmother which we see in most Cinderella retellings, as well as animal helpers and the iconic pumpkin carriage. In this version, Cendrillon attends the ball on two nights with the last night being the one where she loses track of time and loses her shoe. Most translations say she wears glass slippers, but some of the translations I’ve read say they were made of fur. In Perrault’s version, Cendrillon forgives her stepsisters and ensures they both have beneficial marriages of their own.

Grimm’s version, on the other hand is quite morbid and gory (like most of their fairy tales), a fact that my younger self was fascinated by. Their fairytales are definitely not something that is suitable for children. In this version, our heroine’s mother tells Aschenputtel on her deathbed to always remain good and pious and to plant a tree on her grave and it will give her what she wants. In this one, the ball lasts for 3 nights and her stepfamily not only forbids her to go to the ball, but they also give her difficult tasks to keep her busy each night. She has help from birds to deal with the tasks each time. The first night, she merely watches from a pigeon roost. The second and third nights, she attends the ball, getting her finery and transportation by shaking her tree. On the second night, she wears silver clothes and makes it out of the ball by her midnight deadline. The third night, she’s dressed in gold and the prince laid pitch on the stairs to keep her from leaving. One of her gold slippers gets stuck and because she missed her deadline, she has to walk home after her carriage and finery vanish. The prince, determined to marry Aschenputtel, decides to have everyone try on the shoe to find her and somehow it’s too small for everyone else. This is where it really turns dark. The stepmother hands a knife to each of her daughters in turn and advises them to cut up their feet to fit the slipper. Each of the stepsisters is declared his bride in their turn, but then the birds start singing about the blood in the shoe and the prince returns them, eventually finding Aschenputtel. In some of the translations, it goes a step further where the birds peck out the stepsisters’ eyes.

The last version I want to bring up is arguably the oldest, certainly older than the two versions I already mentioned, though it lacks some of the elements that many consider to be iconic. Rhodopis is dated sometime around the end of BC or the beginning of AD. There isn’t much said about Rhodopis herself in most of the translations I’ve read, though the ones that have more details tend to call her a servant or a slave. This one has divine intervention because a bird, usually a falcon (thought to be the god, Horus) takes one of her golden sandals and drops it in the Pharaoh/King’s lap. I really like this version because the Pharaoh has much more personality than the prince in most versions and there’s a solid reason to think that a shoe should identify his bride, considering that from his perspective, an important god just gave him a sign. He has trouble searching for her, but eventually finds her and marries her.

There are several other versions, some of which I like, and others that I definitely don’t like, but I encourage you to explore them. If you missed my last post about my favorite retellings, you may want to check that out as well. Next time, I’ll be posting about my retelling of Cinderella, Once upon a Shoe.

Cinderella

Illustration 176120170 © Danilo Sanino | Dreamstime.com

Since my version of Cinderella, Once upon a Shoe, is currently on a Kindle Countdown sale, I thought I’d finally start a series of posts that I’ve been thinking about writing for a while now. Today, I intend to talk about my favorite versions of Cinderella.

The word favorite, has always been an interesting one for me because I have trouble sticking with any one favorite most of the time. However, for Cinderella, I do have a clear favorite that has stuck with me. The movie, Ever After, has been my favorite version of Cinderella ever since I first saw it back in high school. I loved the blending of the real world with the fairy tale and the fact that there was more depth to it than the animated versions I’d seen before. I still don’t quite understand why they were all using British accents when it took place in France, but that was the only thing about the movie that I could possibly complain about.

Although Ever After is still my absolute favorite Cinderella, there are several other versions that I love. This post would be way too long if I described them all in detail, so I’ll just list everything else for now. I may possibly decide to write a separate post about some of these later. With my memory, I know that will inevitably forget about something, and I may have something new to share in the future, so I’ll update this post when I either remember something new or find a new version I love. These aren’t in any particular order.

What’s your favorite Cinderella retelling. Let me know in the comments below.

Next time, I’ll be talking about the original versions of Cinderella. But without further ado, here’s my list of favorite Cinderella Retellings. I’ll put a * next to anything that is more mature than YA.

Movies

Ever After

Disney’s Cinderella, both the original animated version and the newer live action version

Happily Never After

A Cinderella Story

Ella Enchanted

Books

Cinderella and the Colonel by K. M. Shea

#TheRealCinderella by Yesenia Vargas

Chasing Midnight by Kaitlyn Davis

* Dance by Demelza Carleton

Shard of Glass by Emily Deady

Cinder & Ella by Kelly Oram

Princess of Midnight by Lucy Tempest

Ellie and the Prince by J.M. Stengl

Traitor’s Masque by Kenley Davidson

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

The Coronation Ball by Melanie Cellier

Cinders, Stars, and Glass Slippers by Brittany Fichter

Kingdom of Fairytales Cinderella (4 book series) by J.A. Armitage and Margo Ryerkerk

* Captivated by the Fae by Jessica Greyson and Aria Winters

Fated by Kaylin Lee