"...skillful and clever and funny. I highly recommend this book." — Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times Bestselling Author
If Tipsy Collins learned one thing from her divorce, it's that everyone in Charleston is a little crazy—even if they're already dead.
Tipsy cannot ignore her nutty friends or her vindictive ex-husband, but as a lifelong reluctant clairvoyant, she's always avoided dead people. When Tipsy and her three children move into the house on Bennett Street, she realizes some ghosts won't be ignored.
Till death do us part didn't pan out for Jane and Henry Mott, who've haunted the house for nearly a century. Tipsy's marriage was downright felicitous when compared to Jane and Henry's ill-fated union. Jane believes Henry killed her and then himself, and Henry vehemently denies both accusations. Unfortunately, neither phantom remembers that afternoon in 1923. Tipsy doesn't know whether to side with Jane, who seems to be hiding something under her southern belle charm, or Henry, a mercurial creative genius. Jane and Henry draw Tipsy into their conundrum, and she uncovers secrets long concealed under layers of good manners, broken promises and soupy Lowcountry air. Living with ghosts, however, takes a toll on her health, and possibly even her sanity. As she struggles to forge a new path for herself and her children, Tipsy has a chance to set Jane and Henry free, and release the ghosts of her own past.
I have always loved Halloween, which is kind of strange, given that when I was a child I was terrified of all things spooky, but especially ghosts. I pulled the covers over my head every night. I was convinced a ghost was standing over my bed, waiting for me to peer out into the darkness. I never looked at my reflection in the mirror when I got up for a drink of water, as I was sure there would be a pale, undead someone standing behind me. Maybe by embracing Halloween, I was trying to take the power back from my own imagination. I think that's also why I write about ghosts. If I can make up the paranormal rules, any ghosts that come after me have to follow them! I chose to make my literary ghosts true characters instead of simple plot devices. This excerpt from Charleston Green, where Tipsy first meets Jane, gives some insight into the "ghost rules" of Tipsy's brand of clairvoyance. In honor of Halloween, the ebook for Charleston Green is on sale for only $0.99! If you need a not-too-spooky-yet-ghostly Halloween read, I hope you'll check it out!
Let's face it... this pandemic is the worst. Like many people, I've been feeling "off." I am intensely conscious of how lucky I am. My family is healthy. My husband's job is stable and so is mine. If anything, I'm busier than ever, professionally. We are faring much better than most! My good fortune makes me feel more guilty for feeling "off." I know my kids, who are all teenagers, feel it too, but they are troopers! The young people truly have my sympathy. After all, you're only a teenager once. I try to stay focused and positive for them, even if I'm feeling "meh" myself. That's just part of parenting! In this scene from Charleston Green, Tipsy holds it together for her kids as her ghostly roommates feud. I'm glad this one parenting challenge I've never faced! Not sure I could keep it together so well!
Today I finished the first draft of the sequel to Charleston Green! The working title is Haint Blue, so named after the color commonly used to coat the ceilings of Lowcountry porches. Since this is my fifth novel, I know that there is still a ton of hard work to be done. It will be a couple months before this book is even ready for test readers. Still, there is a huge rush and sense of accomplishment in knowing I completed the next phase in this story. Since Tipsy is an artist, I try to infuse my feelings about writing into her feelings about her artwork. In this scene, she finally finishes a painting after years of "painter's block." The way she feels in this moment is reminiscent of my feelings today!
I love being on the water... preferably large bodies of salt water. I'm lucky to live in the South Carolina Lowcountry, where everything from our social lives to our commuting (because of the many bridges) revolves around our waterways. Since college, my favorite way to experience the water has been by boat. There's no more fun way to socialize with friends and family, because it forces you to sit in relatively close proximity with one another, and do nothing but talk. No T.V. or computers, and often not even good cell phone reception. Whether its slowly cruising the Intercoastal or pulled up on the beach at Capers Island, it's the perfect way to catch up. I also have come to love the long stretches blasting over the water to get where we're going, because it's actually NOT a great time to talk, but it's the perfect time to think. No pressure to do anything but contemplate life, and in my case, writing. I do a lot of book brainstorming on the boat these days. Here's an excerpt from Charleston Green that gives some insight into Charleston boating culture.
My grandmother, Ruby May, loved to tell the story of the day I was born. I was her first grandchild, and she was only forty-two (a year younger than me!). I was born during a blizzard in the winter of 1977, apparently the coldest winter on record in the U.S. since 1895. She reveled in describing the frost on my uncles' Magnum PI mustaches and inside the hospital's window panes, how treacherous the roads were for my grandfather's Cadillac, and how she told off an aged nun who didn't want to let family into the hospital. The story is the stuff of my family lore, always told with her dramatic country embellishments... but apparently, given the weather records, she wasn't exaggerating much. When I write Tipsy's grandmother, I often think of my own Nanny, who always finished her stories with "and that's the gospel truth." Here's an excerpt from Charleston Green featuring Tipsy's memories of her Granna.
My Cracked Slipper Series has a high fantasy setting. It's an entirely fabricated world based on a unique magical system. Writing high fantasy comes with its own challenges; it can be difficult to keep track of an imaginary world's rules, and make sure all your characters obey them! Charleston Green, on the other hand, is based in Charleston, South Carolina, mostly in the present day, but some scenes take place in the 1920s. Authenticity and accuracy, both past and present, are the challenges. I'm not sure which is harder! I think a contemporary, fabricated place (without magic) would be the easiest setting, but so far, that doesn't really appeal to me. I'd like to write a straight historical someday, when my kids are grown and I have time for hours of meticulous research! In this scene from Charleston Green, Tipsy visits Poe's Tavern, a popular restaurant on Sullivan's Island. I hope to give the reader a sense for the quirkiness of the place, while making it specifically relevant to the story. Tipsy contemplates a famous quote by Poe as she tries to decide whether to reveal a big secret. Setting and plot intertwined, while hopefully enriching the novel's depiction of modern day Charleston life!
In Charleston Green, Tipsy's three children are eight (Little Ayers) and six (twins Mary Pratt and Olivia Grace). I also have two girls and a boy, although daughters (not twins) are older than my son. My girls are two years apart, They've been close to the same height since they were about eight and ten, so people often asked if they were twins. These days, they're both taller than me (and I'm almost five nine!) but I can still see them as those feisty little girls. One thing that has not changed-- the endless battles over clothes! Looking back, it's obvious how their spats are woven into Tipsy and her kids, especially the challenge of managing three opinionated, spirited children as a solo parent. Here, M.P. and O-Liv are about to lose it over a sparkly unicorn bathing suit, and Tipsy must lay down the law. My girls are seventeen and fifteen, and I'm still doing the same thing, although these days, it's over jeans and crop tops! Some things never change.
In CHARLESTON GREEN, the protagonist, Tipsy, is recently divorced. She has three children, so while she doesn't have to live with her ex-husband anymore, she still has to exist in his orbit and try to get along for the kids' sake. As a family court attorney, I think that's the one of the hardest realities that hits people post-divorce: if you have kids, you're stuck with this person forever, even if you're not married to him or her. In writing Tipsy's husband, Ayers, I wanted to portray the dynamic I often see with my clients, where one person, usually the peacekeeper during the marriage, maintains that role post-divorce. Ultimately, the former couple continue their dysfunctional dynamic, just in different homes. Tipsy tends to justify Ayers's behavior because she wants things to be calm for the children, or she feels sorry for him, or she'd just intimidated by him. Part of her journey is figuring out how to get along with him while not letting him keep running over her, like she did when they were married. Luckily, she has some ghostly friends to help her learn that lesson! In this scene from Chapter 2, Tipsy is still early in that process. Grab a copy of CHARLESTON GREEN to learn more about her evolution!
I'm excited because today my husband and I are visiting Kensington Plantation. The land is part of an original land grant and has been in existence as Kensington since 1709. Our close friend's family has own the property since the 1950s. While the original main house burned down in the 1920's, the foundation is still visible. The original rice fields still exist behind the current house. It's the kind of place that's mournfully peaceful; its beautiful scenery always reminds me of the tragedy of slavery. In Charleston Green, Jane's family owns a plantation, called the Old Cannon. My time at Kensington inspired the descriptions of the Old Cannon, including the modern scenes and the flashbacks to Jane and Henry's lives in the 1920s. I feel very fortunate to be able to spend time in such a beautiful place, surrounded by the weight of three centuries of history!
The beaches here in Charleston are finally opening up! We're planning a beach day with the kids on Saturday. If you live in or visit Charleston, you probably have a favorite beach, because there are so many of them! The Lowcountry has the perfect beach to fit your personal vibe. Relatively close to downtown, you have Folly, Edisto, the Isle of Palms, Kiawah, and Sullivans. If you can take the boat, you can visit Capers Island, Morris Island, or Dewees Island. DeBordieau, Litchfield, and Pawleys are all about an hour north. Each beach has its own unique culture. Some are party-central, some are refined and exclusive, some are shabby chic, and some are very family oriented. Really, I guess each beach has a little bit of everything, but everyone has their favorites. If I had to choose, I'd probably pick Sullivan's and DeBordieau (but it's a hard choice!). In this excerpt from Charleston Green, you can get a little sense for the awesomeness that is Sullivan's Island. Happy Beach-going!
Most days, writing is the most natural thing in the world for me. I'm a happy writer; usually, I am at my most prolific when things are pretty peaceful in my own life. I've always heard about people pouring their personal troubles into their creative lives... you know, the "tortured artist" trope... Van Gogh and Beethoven and the like. That's so not me! When I hit a bump in the road, my output get uneven, too. Given everything that's happening in the world today, I'm happy to say I've still been able to focus, but yesterday I got some "meh" news. It threw me off, so today is a recovery day. Tipsy, the heroine of Charleston Green, agrees with me about the tortured artist routine. Her problems are way worse than mine, and she's acknowledging her upsetting lack of creative output in this excerpt. Fortunately, all is not lost! Check out Charleston Green to learn how she overcomes her "painter's block!"
Oh, how I miss summer! Even though in South Carolina, it's basically upon us already this time of year, it feels so far away. We're all still trapped in our houses. We live on the coast, and my teenagers are dying to hit the beach or go out on the boat. I feel their pain, as I would like nothing more than to sip a cold beer with the hot sun on my shoulders! To ease the pain, I like to reread a set of scenes in Charleston Green, where Tipsy and her friends take the boat out to celebrate her latest painting sale. While she's a little nervous because her boyfriend picks a local party island, she can't help but get caught up in the fun in the sun for the afternoon. Wherever you are, I wish you a weekend filled with sunshine! I hope we all get to experience some real summer fun, whatever that looks like for you, very soon!
I woke up this morning to another day of quarantining... not exactly a thrilling prospect when my husband and I are supposed to be in South Beach celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary. I felt somewhat morose as I checked my phone, until I read a text from my twelve-year-old son on our group chat with his two older sisters. Long story short, I laughed out loud at his latest name for the chat. This isn't really about what the content of his change-- maybe it wouldn't be as funny to someone who doesn't know him-- it's about how good it felt to laugh unexpectedly when I was feeling rather blah. Even during trying times, hilarity turns up in unexpected places, and those random giggles are often the best (and most needed) laughs. In this scene from Charleston Green, Tipsy unintentionally elicits laughter from her best friend Shelby when Shelby is in the middle of a heartbreak. I hope you also find some unexpected humor today!
Whenever I have downtime, I find it makes me feel unsettled. I have a constant sense that there is something I can do to be more productive. In normal times, I rarely get any downtime, so it doesn't happen very often! In these days of stay-at-home orders and working from home, I'm busy with writing, lawyering, and managing my kids and house, but I have noticed that feeling creeping up on me. Maybe because I'm possibly doing even more than usual, yet worried I'm not doing any of it well enough. If I have an hour in the evening to relax, I feel like I'm slacking off. There must be something else I can do! Sometimes this kind of thinking can be a means to avoid ruminating over stressful things (hello, COVID and the economy!). In this excerpt from Charleston Green, Tipsy has some free time from her kids and work, and she feels a similar urgent need to "fix everything." In reality, she's trying to control the big problems in her life over which she has little control. Her attempt to be proactive almost gets her into big trouble.
The standard question these days: "How are y'all holding up in the quarantine?" Even when I'm feeling stressed or down, I find myself putting forth a jovial response. "We're hanging in there! It could be so much worse! We're all healthy and safe!" Our kids are being troopers, even though I know they miss their friends terribly. My mom and stepdad are toughing it out in their condo, managing his serious health concerns. My husband is amazing; he goes to the hospital every day to care for his patients. I admire them all, and I want to be strong for them and because of them. I think it's a natural form of collective reassurance. We have an instinctive urge to buoy one another, even when we're struggling inside. In this scene from Charleston Green, Tipsy puts on a brave face for her kids during a trying supernatural encounter. While I've never had to protect my kids from argumentative ghosts, I'm following Tipsy's lead, and reassuring them that everything really will be okay. I hope my positivity encourages theirs, just like they inspire me, in a circle of hopefulness. Be safe, and stay positive! It's contagious.
I doubt I’m the only one who feels trapped these days. I’m focusing on the facts: my family is healthy, and my entrapment is happening in my lovely house in my beautiful hometown. Still, I can’t help but experience some claustrophobia, and I’ve been thinking about all the ways life makes us feel stuck. In this excerpt from CHARLESTON GREEN, Tipsy recalls lamenting her small town life with appropriate teenage angst. I grew up somewhere that I desperately wanted to leave as a teenager, and I’m still thankful I got out. Maybe if I hadn’t felt so stuck, however, I wouldn’t have pushed so hard to make a change. Hopefully that analogy rings true, and we all work together, tolerate the frustrations of distancing, and nip this virus so we can get back to normal. Even if I do feel a little like Tipsy's metaphorical mouse right now!
What is normal these days? For me, it's lawyering from home, helping my kids with homeschooling, worrying about my husband (as a physician, he must go to the hospital every day), and preparing for the launch of CHARLESTON GREEN. With warm weather approaching, it's hard not to feel frustrated-- will we be able to take planned vacations? Will the kids have a memorable summer at the beach and on the boat with their friends? Can homeschooling possibly make up for lost classroom time? Is everyone being home good or bad for book promotion? Everything comes into perspective, however, when I read the NYT articles on the terrible situation in Italy. My family is healthy and we're safe in our home. What more do we truly need? If we remain grateful, we can find comfort in any new normal. In this excerpt from CHARLESTON GREEN, Tipsy gets to know her new neighborhood and ponders some of her personal conundrums... all with positivity. Stay safe, friends!
Like everyone else, I'm trying to keep some semblance of normalcy while doing my best to protect my family's health and the health of everyone in my community. When I have a spare moment, I think about how lucky I've been in my lifetime. We haven't lived through this kind of highly contagious disease disrupting everyday life to this extent in a century. Throughout human history, pandemics have been the norm, not the exception. Plague, smallpox, cholera, influenza... the list goes on. Only a handful of living people might remember the 1918 Spanish flu. I have imagined the residue of it, however, in Charleston Green. One of the ghostly characters, Luisa, died from the flu in the early 1920s. In this excerpt, Tipsy talks to another ghost about Luisa's death. This scene makes me remember how lucky I am that I've only had to imagine such a scenario. When I think of it that way, a couple weeks of quarantine doesn't seem so bad. Stay safe, friends!
In CHARLESTON GREEN, two of the main characters are what we sometimes call “creatives.” Protagonist Tipsy Collins is an artist, while one of her undead roommates, Henry Mott, is a writer. Tipsy and Henry have something more in common than creativity; both have struggled at times with output. After her kids were born, Tipsy suffered from what she refers to as “painter’s block.” Throughout the story, we learn that in life, Henry had a literary magnum opus he wrestled with for years. I’ve had my own experiences with writer’s block, and it’s a frustrating, painful place to find yourself, especially when you know the stories are in there, and you can’t find a way to let them out. On the flip side, however, once you finally overcome it, there’s an immense sense of joy and satisfaction. CHARLESTON GREEN itself was the product of such a breakthrough for me! In this excerpt, I let the reader in on Tipsy’s particular creative process, and the excitement and gratitude she feels when she finally breaks through her mental barrier. As she breathes a sigh of relief, she and Henry compare notes on painting and writing. They acknowledge that they are both storytellers in their own way.
This is my first book bubble about my new novel, CHARLESTON GREEN! While CHARLESTON GREEN is in many ways a departure from The Cracked Slipper Series, most explicitly because it’s set in our world, all my novels have common themes. I believe the conundrums my characters struggle with are universal, although I approach them from a woman’s perspective, and I always add a magical, fantastical twist. My stories are about our expectations of life, how the universe almost always throws curve balls, and how we grow and learn from our disappointments and failures. I try to look at the big picture through examination of a character’s early experiences, and how they shape his or her choices. In CHARLESTON GREEN, heroine Tipsy Collins is trying to rebuild her life after a devastating divorce. Her undead roommates, Jane and Henry, teach her valuable lessons about overcoming fear, letting go of the past, and embracing life’s unexpected twists and turns. Jane and Henry have their own challenges to overcome—even though they’ve been dead for almost a century! Please enjoy this excerpt from CHARLESTON GREEN, where Tipsy and Jane haven their first real conversation, and Tipsy laments her precarious living situation. CHARLESTON GREEN is now available for pre-order on all major retailers!
The long-awaited conclusion to Stephanie Alexander’s Cracked Slipper Series brings a satisfying resolution to a beloved fairytale. Eleanor’s surprisingly relatable enchanted life is a testament to the power of personal evolution, and a reminder that there are no simple happy endings. Four years have passed since Eleanor Brice Desmarais’s darkest secret came to heartbreaking, perilous light. The princess with the cracked glass slipper still mourns unimaginable losses, including the deaths of her son and her best friend. Her lover, Dorian Finley, is in exile in a far northern kingdom. Eleanor and her husband, Crown Prince Gregory of Cartheigh, barely tolerate one another. Husband and wife travel north on an unexpected diplomatic mission, and Eleanor, Dorian, and Gregory resume their dangerous love triangle, with continued interference from Eleanor’s wily stepsister. Eleanor’s old nemesis, Ezra Oliver, forms a mysterious alliance with an army of vicious, bloodthirsty ogres, pushing Cartheigh to the brink of war. His magical finagling exposes strange connections between Eleanor’s world and our own, and places her precocious, enigmatic daughter, Natalie, in terrible danger. When Gregory suddenly finds himself king, he leans on Dorian and Eleanor’s counsel. With a fledgling monarch on the throne and the enemy amassing in the north, the unlikely triad must unite for the good of the kingdom. Their shared purpose forces Eleanor to rethink years of grudges, resentment, and animosity. As she truly embraces her own power, she finds herself learning to forgive, and asking for forgiveness.
As a writer of speculative fiction, world building is an important part of my writing process. Eleanor's world, in The Cracked Slipper Series, is a sort of magical version of Renaissance Europe, while Tipsy's world, in Charleston Green, could very well be our own world, if magic does indeed exist here, hidden away from all but those gifted with supernatural abilities. I like to think of my magical worlds as being interconnected, and in this passage from The Glass Rainbow, Eleanor listens as the wisest person in her world explains how and why we know a warped version of her story-- the "glass slipper princess" story. Since I, myself, have very vivid dreams, I use dreams as a way to connect my worlds. In his stories, Stephen King talks about the Beam, or the Dark Tower of Roland of Gilead's world, as a sort of connection between the worlds he creates. In some ways, when you're creating multiple worlds in your head with their own supernatural rules, the only way to justify the differences is to embrace multiverse theories! Might sound crazy, and I'm only speaking for myself, but that's how real our imaginary worlds feel to writers!
I sometimes think about how easy it is for very young children to make friends. You put a couple three-year-olds together, and generally, they'll pal around with little judgment or suspicion. Of course personalities come into play... with my three children, my oldest was always reserved, my youngest was always an extreme extrovert, and my middle child was, well, somewhere in the middle. Generally speaking, though, little kids just enjoy other little kids. As we grow, we lose that. We become pickier and more set in our own ways, and unfortunately, our social systems teach us to quickly distrust and judge each other based on appearance or mannerisms. In my forties, I am so busy with work and family, it can be hard enough to keep up with old friends, much less make new ones. When I find someone I instantly click with, it's a gift! In this scene from The Glass Rainbow, independent, educated Eleanor, who has always struggled to find like-minded women, is thrilled to make a new friend, and a magical one at that. Her parrot Chou Chou, however, senses something may be a bit off with her new buddy Agnes. Eleanor doesn't want to believe it, and I don't blame her!
This week's book bubble switches gears from my newest novel, Charleston Green, to the conclusion of The Cracked Slipper Series, The Glass Rainbow. Author Confession: It took me eight years to write this book!! I started it in 2012, right before my life took a major unplanned turn. One thing led to another, and the conclusion to Eleanor's circumspect happily-ever-after stayed in the proverbial drawer (i.e., in a word document on my computer) until the summer of 2019. Even when I took a break from writing, these characters and this world never left me. I honestly missed them! They were so compelling to me when I started The Cracked Slipper in 2009, that I had to write their story. I am so glad that I have these books, because every time I reread them, it's like visiting old friends. Here's an excerpt of the first scene of The Glass Rainbow. I remember when I wrote it, I was so excited to "spend time" with Eleanor again. Enjoy!
“...a sophisticated and fantastical twist to the beloved Cinderella fairy tale.” — A. G. Howard, author of the Splintered Series.. When Eleanor Brice loses a glass slipper, she unexpectedly gains a royal fiancé and a way out of her abusive stepmother’s house. Unfortunately, eight years of mistreatment, isolation, and clandestine book learning hardly prepared Eleanor for life at Eclatant Palace, where women are seen, not heard. According to Eleanor’s eavesdropping parrot, no one at court appreciates her unladylike tendency to voice her opinion. To make matters worse, Gregory Desmarais, Crown Prince of Cartheigh, spends his last night of bachelorhood on a drunken whoring spree. Before the ink dries on her marriage proclamation, Eleanor realizes she loves her husband’s best friend, the intellectual, surprisingly sensitive former soldier, Dorian Finley. As Gregory’s mercurial nature comes to light, Eleanor wrestles with her feelings for Dorian, flounders in her new role, and makes powerful enemies—foes who use Eleanor as a scapegoat in a magical plot to unseat the royal family. Eleanor Brice is a princess. She lives in an enchanted castle. She even has her own unicorn. But she’s lived through childhood trauma, she has insecurities and anxieties, and she makes dreadful relationship choices. In short, she’s a real woman in a fairy tale world, and this is her happily-ever-after.
While I don't write romance novels, my books contain romantic elements. The main characters are usually involved in some sort of tumultuous romantic conundrums, because who wants to read about normal, everyday relationships? I'm sort of kidding, but it is true that most literary love stories are not simple, and at least until the "happy ending," they're often the source of more pain for the characters than joy. In The Cracked Slipper, Eleanor and her true love, Dorian, seem to be permanently and irrevocably separated from one another by her marriage to their crown prince (and his best friend), Gregory. My goal in writing about their love is to tap into their anguish, while making the reader believe that if only things were different, they could have a healthy, committed, normal, even boring relationship. In other words, they have to have a truly deep connection, not one just based on lust or longing. In this excerpt, we see Eleanor at her most romantically tortured. If you'd like to read more about their romance and learn why she was destined to fall in love with Dorian, download The Cracked Slipper for $0.99 cents this weekend!
It's finally cooling down in Charleston! I always long for summer during the winter months, but by this time of year, I am so ready for the change of seasons. Our falls are marked by perfectly clear skies, no humidity, and balmy temperatures. Especially this year, I find myself craving the joy and comfort of holiday traditions. On October 1, my Halloween decorations will be in full force, and hopefully I make it though Thanksgiving without busting out the Christmas decorations! These traditions take on a new meaning this year, as they give us something to look forward to during a time when it's hard to plan anything. Eleanor's kingdom, Cartheigh, has its own holiday traditions! I really enjoyed creating a unique culture for Eleanor's world, and the four seasonal "Fests" are a huge part of her life! Each holiday is deeply rooted in the changing of the seasons. In this excerpt, the celebration of Eleanor's engagement has taken over the Waning Fest, whether she likes it or not!
Eleanor has two animal companions in The Cracked Slipper Series: Chou Chou, her gossipy parrot spy, and her unicorn, Teardrop. The word "unicorn" has come to colloquially mean "something unusual, rare, and valuable," and in Eleanor's world, unicorns are indeed all those things. A herd of unicorns protects and serves the royal family, and therefore, her whole kingdom. They are warrior philosophers. Teardrop becomes one of Eleanor's best friends, and is one of the most important characters in the entire series. Like all her kind, she is honest to the point of bluntness, proud and intelligent, and fiercely loyal. She makes Eleanor see life in a different way, and calls her out when she needs it. The unicorns in Eleanor's world are the product of my personal childhood fantasies. This is an early scene in Eleanor and Teardrop's friendship, where they are quickly becoming inseparable. Enjoy!
The love triangles is a storytelling device readers either love or hate. Personally, I'm on team triad. I enjoy the tension these dynamics create in a story with romantic elements. I do think, however, that they should stem from compelling, unique relationship dynamics. It's a little tiresome to see the same old trope: plain, boring girl has two handsome, charming men pursuing her, simply because they see her "true beauty." Or conversely, wholly unpleasant man has multiple women desperately fighting over him and making total fools of themselves. Of course, all these dynamics can also apply to fictional LGBT relationships. To avoid cliches in The Cracked Slipper's central love triangle, I tried to focus on the character's personalities and the constraints society places on them. This excerpt from The Cracked Slipper hopefully succeeds!
Eleanor Brice, the heroine of The Cracked Slipper Series, faces many trials in the first volume of the series. In volume two, The Dragon Choker, her challenges increase tenfold. I’ve had a few readers lament that I’m too hard on her! Without giving anything away, in The Dragon Choker, she does indeed suffer unimaginable losses, terrible danger, and a brutal reckoning. I love Eleanor like my own sister! So why am I giving her so much hell? First, the series covers a significant span of Eleanor’s life. As she ages, her problems grow up with her. Second, in my own life, I’ve found my greatest challenges (and there have been many), have led to my greatest growth. I wouldn’t be the person I am without those losses. I give Eleanor so many problems because I want her to reach her full potential. She would not be able to fully rise to the occasion in the third book if she hadn’t overcome the tribulations of her earlier adventures. This excerpt from The Cracked Slipper gives some insight into her marriage problems. The toxic dynamics between Eleanor and Gregory only get worse in The Dragon Choker, but I promise, Eleanor is up to the challenge. She’ll be a better person for it.
Most couples inevitably face the question, “How did you meet?” For some, it’s love at first sight. For others, it takes years of slow burn to finally come together. My husband and I have a very interesting story! We technically met at our children’s school, but even more so, because my ex-husband was dating his ex-wife! We said hello at school functions and birthday parties, and noticed a spark. Five years after we first met, and almost four years after our first date, we got married! We now share our lives with our blended family of five kids and our two miniature dachshunds. Our exes are also married. Believe me, people get a kick out of that story! “Wait, your ex-husband is married to his ex-wife? WHAT?” Since you’re probably wondering, yes, we all get along. It’s actually easier to only deal with one other set of parents and kids! I never would have predicted our situation, but I’m grateful life worked in mysterious ways to bring us together. As for Eleanor, she thinks she’s already met her true love in Prince Gregory, until she meets his best friend, Dorian Finley. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s just met her real soul mate. Please enjoy this except from The Cracked Slipper, wherein Eleanor and Dorian share their first dance.
Who doesn’t love a good sidekick? I find such supporting characters to be so important in the stories I write and the books I read. After all, where would Harry be without Hermione and Ron? In Harry’s case, the answer is…well… dead. Even if a close supporting character doesn’t literally save the protagonist’s life, however, he or she can play multiple important roles and add depth to the protagonist’s own development. This brings me to one of my favorite characters from The Cracked Slipper Series, Eleanor’s parrot, Chou Chou. He’s Eleanor’s feathery conscience and her sounding board. He is her subtle spy, flying around the palace in search of intrigue. He also provides comic relief! Through Chou’s witty observations and his thoughtful approval or chastisement, Eleanor regularly learns something new about herself, as well as the forces that align for and against her. Think about your favorite stories. Maybe even try to imagine them without the sidekicks! I bet you’ll realize that the close supporting characters are vital to the overall reading experience. Few characters bring me more joy to write than a silly parrot who might seem superfluous on the surface, but is Eleanor’s heart and soul. Please enjoy this except, where Chou brings Eleanor some juicy gossip about her stepsister.
Character arc is important to me as a writer. In the protagonist, of course, but also in the supporting cast around her (or him). I want every character to be a different person (or unicorn, or gossipy parrot, or ghost) by the novel’s end, including the antagonists. I focus heavily on character arc because my character’s internal struggles are as important as the plot twists and turns that drive them. They are shaped by the external challenges I throw at them. Character should depend on plot as much as plot is determined by character. As a reader, there is something dissatisfying about reaching the end and finding the story hasn’t changed the characters in some way. This year, I’m going to think of new year’s resolutions as part of my real-life character arc. Resolutions are often reactions to examinations of our past patterns and evolving circumstances. We resolve to find balance because life is stressful, travel because life is boring, listen better because relationships are suffering, or exercise because waistlines are thickening. While keeping resolutions is challenging, if bookworms think of them as our own personal character arcs, perhaps we will be more likely to stick with them! Please enjoy this short except from The Cracked Slipper, where Eleanor finally confronts her scheming stepmother as part of her own evolution.
I started writing The Cracked Slipper Series in late 2009. The next decade changed my life dramatically. During the 2010s, I wrote the first two Cracked Slipper novels, signed with two literary agents, got divorced, wrote another novel (Charleston Green, forthcoming), attended law school, passed the bar exam, fell in love, got remarried, and finally finished the last Cracked Slipper novel in late 2019. Oh, while raising my three kids, who are now teenagers. People ask how I found time to write through all this. Honestly, there were periods when I didn't. There was too much uncertainty in my real life to find space for my characters' internal struggles. But even at my darkest, I knew I'd return to it. Nothing feels as naturally wonderful as writing a scene like the one to your right. A scene that flows perfectly from your hands, like a jump shot you know you'll make as soon as the ball leaves your fingertips. As I sit on the cusp between decades, I feel intense gratitude for the joy of writing. I'm thankful I have so much passion for something. I don't think I could have kept banging away at it for the past ten years if I didn't simply love to write. I hope my joy and gratitude shine through in my stories.
Holidays are universal in human cultures, so naturally, Eleanor's elegant, prosperous fantastical kingdom, Cartheigh, has its own annual celebrations. There are four Fests, one for each season: the Awakening, the Waxing, the Harvest, and the Waning. The winter-themed beauty of the Waning Fest is a warm and festive balm on spirits chilled by cold days and long nights, just as Christmas relieves us of the same doldrums. Of course, Eleanor and her countrymen have the benefit of magical entertainment, as described in the excerpt to your right. Our twinkling electric lights aren't quite as exciting, but their flickering still enchants us. In the end, no matter where we're from, no matter the nation, we crave holiday magic. During this Christmas season, I hope you remember, even when the bustle seems stressful, that holidays-- especially winter celebrations-- are truly about our deepest needs: community, companionship, fellowship, love, and a guaranteed reason to celebrate, laugh, and create beauty. Even without the spells of Eleanor's world, the magic of human connection and beloved tradition is always there. Happy Holidays!
Eleanor Brice Desmarais has learned that happily-ever-after is as rare as a frozen dragon. She survived a plot against her life, but her marriage to the womanizing alcoholic Prince Gregory remains at best a sham, and at worse, a potential noose around her neck. She finds joy in the stolen hours with her lover and husband’s best friend, Dorian Finley. But Gregory’s increasing suspicions, her stepsister’s continued scheming, and her own guilt create a rift between the lovers that seems insurmountable. Turning her energies to a school for impoverished girls, Eleanor dreams to give them hope and new opportunities, but the temptations of the village and an ominous plot to bring down the wicked witches of Afar Creek Abbey threaten to close the school forever. A witch’s spell and a beautiful necklace are all that stand between Eleanor and permanent—and dangerous—heartbreak.
Today is a great day! After ten years, I have finally sent the final installment of The Cracked Slipper Series, The Glass Rainbow, to the copy editor for the finishing touches! It should be available for my readers, who have so patiently waited for this book, within two weeks. As I think back on the evolution of The Cracked Slipper Series as a whole entity, part of me wishes I’d finished the series years ago (like I planned when I started writing it in late 2009), but in reality, the story would not be the same if I’d written in back then. So much has happened in my own life over the past decade. The Glass Rainbow needed the lessons I’ve learned to do justice to Eleanor’s evolution as a character. Since I’m getting hyped about the release of the final book, I thought I’d share an excerpt from the final pages of the second installment, The Dragon Choker, where Eleanor looks to the future with hopeful tenacity. She still has many trials ahead of her, but as the voice of her story, I can now read this excerpt with the satisfaction of knowing she’ll make the best of it.
I attended law school as a single mother, while working and writing. I remember listening to the younger students complain about being terribly busy, and while I never did so, I wanted to laugh. In my experience, they didn’t know what it felt like to be truly stressed out. While I balanced school, family, writing, and work, I sometimes felt like the addition of one more responsibility or problem would put me over the edge. Things that weren’t really a big deal, like a broken dishwasher, felt overwhelming. Those days are behind me, but I’m now a full time lawyer and mom, and I still put hours of work into my books each week. I have two book projects actively in progress, and sometimes it feels like too much to compose a single tweet, or edit one more page. This week, I’ve been very anxious about a self-imposed writing deadline! I hope I make it, but I have to remind myself that even if I don’t, these projects will be finished sooner rather than later. Then it’s on to the next one! In this scene from The Dragon Choker, Eleanor ponders a new worry that has landed on her heaping pile of stressful conundrums: a dangerous challenge to her daughters’ tenuous claim to the throne.
Writing a novel is a labor of love and an exercise in tenacity. While I can’t accurately describe something I love doing as “hard,” I admit it’s sometimes exhausting and tedious. Once the initial thrill of finishing the first draft passes, I run through a few rounds of content editing. It’s the easiest phase of the process for me. The most exhausting part (writing a complete first draft) is over, but the monotony has yet to begin. As I type this, however, I’ve moved on to the final, fine tuning edits, and I’m in the trenches of boredom. I’m searching my current manuscript (the last installment in The Cracked Slipper Series), for problem words. Words like “was,” “back,” “thought,” “could,” and the dreaded “that.” I have a long list, and I simply do a word search of the entire document. I delete or change these words as I can to tighten the prose. I dread this stage with every book. It’s mind numbing. Yet I do it, because I believe dedication to perfecting content is necessary to produce a viable manuscript. I keep pushing through, and THAT a key to success. Please enjoy this excerpt from The Dragon Choker, where Dorian powers through a battle with death itself.
Like many people, I was deeply affected by the tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. I immediately imagined myself in his wife’s position. I wonder how Vanessa Bryant is making it through these terrible days. How will she balance her own crushing grief with the need to protect and support her other children through theirs? I wanted to pull my husband and my children close and hide them from the world. I thought of a revelation I had years ago, when my children were small. I never understood the true meaning of love, or the true meaning of fear, until I had kids. I wrote this scene in The Dragon Choker with that paradigm in my mind. When her son falls ill from a terrible plague, Eleanor faces a parent’s worst nightmare. She’s beyond terrified, but she must hide her fear from her ill child, and from her as-of-yet healthy daughter. These kinds of scenes are very difficult to write, but they serve the dual purpose of reminding me to be grateful for my family’s health and safety. To that end, I send compassionate wishes for peace and healing to all the families involved in last Sunday’s helicopter accident.
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