The Opposite of Popular

The online home of alleged author Victoria Leybourne


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The Murano Glass Slipper is now available!

It’s the big day! Eeeek. I’m fine, though. If obsessively refreshing a sales page constitutes “fine”. Otherwise I’m probably not fine. ANYWAY. Would you like to buy a book? No pressure. I’ll just leave these links here.

US (and other countries that use Amazon.com): Paperback | Kindle

UK: Paperback | Kindle

Canada: Paperback | Kindle

Australia: Kindle (I can’t distribute paperbacks there at the moment :()

France: Paperback | Kindle

Germany: Paperback | Kindle 

And here’s the cover and blurb again. As always, thank you all so much for your support, I really appreciate it ❤

 

the cover of "the murano glass slipper: a cinderella retelling" by victoria leybourne. A watercolour image of a glass slipper surrounded by pink and blue flowers, on a dark blue background.

Chiara has always dreamed of finding love. With her family on the brink of financial ruin, though, it’s money she really needs. What she gets is Leandra, a seasoned con artist who makes an unconventional fairy godmother. Leandra has a plan, and Chiara’s just desperate enough to go along with it.

Occasionally-charming Domenico isn’t quite a prince. He’s an English earl living a secret, quiet life in Venice, at least until he makes an ill-considered bet with Giacomo Casanova. Now Domenico has a second false identity to maintain, as well as a glass slipper to find. With all that to deal with, he needs to avoid distractions—like the irresistible stranger he keeps running into. The only problem is, he’s falling in love with her.

Dancing with Domenico is the best feeling Chiara’s ever had and, as Carnevale draws to a close, she realises she’s found the man of her dreams. Now all she has to do is break his heart…

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The Murano Glass Slipper releases on November 3!

AAAAAAHHH! Sorry, I mean, HIIIII!

So… things have been happening. Book-related things. I’ll go into it in a minute but, first of all, the big news: The Murano Glass Slipper is almost ready to go! Barring any last-minute disasters, it will be available in both ebook and paperback on Friday, November 3.

Here’s the cover and blurb:

the cover of "the murano glass slipper: a cinderella retelling" by victoria leybourne. A watercolour image of a glass slipper surrounded by pink and blue flowers, on a dark blue background.

Chiara has always dreamed of finding love. With her family on the brink of financial ruin, though, it’s money she really needs. What she gets is Leandra, a seasoned con artist who makes an unconventional fairy godmother. Leandra has a plan, and Chiara’s just desperate enough to go along with it.

Occasionally-charming Domenico isn’t quite a prince. He’s an English earl living a secret, quiet life in Venice, at least until he makes an ill-considered bet with Giacomo Casanova. Now Domenico has a second false identity to maintain, as well as a glass slipper to find. With all that to deal with, he needs to avoid distractions—like the irresistible stranger he keeps running into. The only problem is, he’s falling in love with her.

Dancing with Domenico is the best feeling Chiara’s ever had and, as Carnevale draws to a close, she realises she’s found the man of her dreams. Now all she has to do is break his heart…

If you’ve been lurking around these parts for a while, you might remember a post I made before The Rose and the Mask came out explaining how people could support the launch if they wanted to. I won’t repeat the whole thing here, but I’ll summarise. (Note: this is only for people who particularly want to help me because they love me or my writing or are just generally kind and wonderful. I don’t expect any of this from anyone!)

Reviews: If you know me personally, please don’t review the book! (Explanation here, but basically it can get me into trouble!) If you only know me through my writing, e.g. reading this blog or The Rose and the Mask, that’s different – though, of course, I don’t want you to rate or review the book dishonestly! But, if you do read it, it’s certainly true that ratings and reviews help to sell books, so it would be very nice of you to leave one on Amazon or Goodreads, if you’d like to.

Buying the book: If we are friends and you would like to read the book, I do not expect you to buy one! Let me know and I’ll give you a copy. However, I know some of you are lovely and will buy one anyway and want to know how to do that in the most useful way. (Thank you!) The answer is that it’s probably best to buy the ebook, and as soon after the release as you can. However, I’m pretty proud of the paperback (they’re more work to design) and am always thrilled when someone buys one. So, please just choose whichever you’d prefer!

Thank you ❤

An assortment of other thoughts:

I’m pretty pleased with how the cover came out! This is pretty much how I pictured the cover of this book as I was done designing the one for The Rose and the Mask, but at one point I was certain I’d never find or be able to make a watercolour image of a glass slipper. So I spent ages trying out new ideas for both covers (they’re interconnected stories, so they need to match!) but none of them really worked. In the end, I found this watercolour stock image of a regular shoe and messed with the transparency and… yeah. I guess the test will be whether or not it sells, but I feel like it at least looks pretty?

I ended up rewriting an entire subplot. Last time I posted, I had just sent the book off for its first edit. After that, I came up with a way to make the ending much stronger (good news) but it required removing and replacing an entire subplot (not good news). It all sort of came to me at once, and I was able to write out a detailed plan for that new subplot and how it would feed into the new and improved ending, and that made it relatively easy to add what turned out to be 18,000 words at this late stage. So that was good. Ideally, though, I’d have had that idea before having a bunch of now-removed words edited. Or even, you know, before I wrote those words. But I’m new to the world of book-planning, so I guess some teething problems were to be expected. And I’m so happy with how those changes worked out. Whenever I have an epiphany like that, it always seems incredible to me that I ever wrote the thing the original way when the new version is so much better.

I miss blogging! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to doing weekly blog posts like I did last year – not when I’m as keen as I am to maintain and improve my speed at writing books. It’s a shame, though, because I keep thinking of things I want to talk about and just not having the time to write them. Hopefully I’ll be able to do it at least a little more once I have a clearer idea of what I’m doing (if that ever happens!).

 

 

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading 🙂


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All the news that’s fit to type

Hello blogfriends!

Like pretty much everyone in my life, you haven’t heard from me for a while, so it’s probably time for an update. Here, in no particular order, is what’s going on with me.

The Murano Glass Slipper is being edited!

the title "the murano glass slipper" against a blue watercolour background

I kind of can’t believe this, actually. As you guys have heard me bleat repeatedly on this very blog, there were THREE WHOLE YEARS between me beginning the first draft of The Rose and the Mask and its publication. I started writing The Murano Glass Slipper (a companion novel) on the March 20 this year and now, five months later, the messy “forcing ideas out of my brain and onto the page” stage is over and the process of preparing it for publication has begun. I’m hoping to release it this Autumn, although (like last time) I’m reluctant to fix a date until I’m quite a bit further along with the edit. I’m pretty hopeless at evaluating my own work so I honestly have no way of knowing how good or bad the hunk of words I sent into cyberspace last week is, or long it might take me to fix it up based on my editor’s suggestions.

Honestly, I’m very excited to have finished this quickly and it’s making me feel a little more hopeful that I might one day be able to make my living as a writer (although it’s worth noting that some of the most successful indie authors are putting out a book a month or even more, a feat that still makes me go “HOOOOOOWWW????” every time I think about it). But my number one concern is still to produce a book that people will enjoy reading, and I’ll delay the release as long as I have to to make that happen.

What’s interesting is that having The Rose and the Mask out there (and doing better than I ever really expected it to in terms of both sales and reader response) has made it a lot easier to get out of my own way and just keep writing The Murano Glass Slipper. Knowing that people want to read what I write is incredible, honestly, and has preempted a lot of the “this is terrible and I am terrible and everything is terrible” spiralling that I went through last time. But it also feels like a responsibility. There’s such a lot of hard work (and sheer luck) that goes into getting someone to pick up a book and like it enough to come back for more, and the idea of disappointing those readers is very scary. But I suppose that’s a good problem to have.

The Rose and the Mask is five months old!

Well, five-and-a-half, really. And, guys, it’s been a wild ride. I’m really glad I was doing a better job of updating this blog around the release, actually, because it’s been really helpful to remind myself, on “bad” days, how much better the book did than I was expecting. I mean, in this post from March 11, I said that I’d had a combined 57 paperback and ebook sales and the equivalent of 37 read-throughs on Kindle Unlimited (I explained what KU is in that post if you’re confused) and described that as “better than I expected, not as good as I hoped”. I think I was assuming that it would be all downhill from there. But, as you can see from this graph…

Graph shows total sales (ebook+paperback) plus what I call “full read equivalents”, i.e. the number of pages read in KU that day divided by the number of pages in the book)

…the book actually peaked in early April. (I think I figured out that that one really good spike was down to heavy promotion on a similar book that day – while my book was in the “Customers also bought…” section of that book’s page on Amazon.) Since then, though, I have experienced the expected slide. That’s been mostly okay. I mean, it’s widely acknowledged that that’s what happens after a book’s release, unless you keep releasing more books in the same series (which is why those wizards I mentioned earlier release so often). I could perhaps have slowed the decline by running a promotion of some kind, but I really wanted to save most of the promo options I haven’t used until I release the second book and have two books to promote at once. I won’t pretend it doesn’t sometimes suck to see the book’s Amazon rank falling (which means it gets seen by fewer people, which means fewer sales and so on in a disheartening ouroboros), but it really has done a lot better than I expected it to.

And then there’s reader reaction. If you were lurking around these parts before the release, you’ll know that’s what I was most worried about. I put a lot into this book (not always the right stuff, which is why it took so long, but, like, a lot) and I was really worried that nobody would like it. That fear turned out to be unfounded, which is amazing. A little scary, like I said above, but amazing. Also, spending five months knowing that at least one person that day (on average) has bought/borrowed and presumably read the book has made it a lot easier to cope with the idea of some of them not liking it.

While I’m being honest, though, here is a weird thing that I hope will go away one day: I am still very squirmy about the book in everyday life. Most people know I write, but only my very best friends know what the book is called and how to find it. And sometimes I will randomly think about a line or scene from it and feel overwhelmed with embarrassment about how awful it suddenly seems – even though, broadly speaking, I’m still proud of it. I certainly can’t bring myself to sit down and read it. It’s a shame, in a way: I’m actually probably the one person in the world who would get most excited about a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in Venice (which is why I wrote one), but I’m also the only person with cause to feel embarrassed about its existence.

Harder, better, faster, stronger

gif from bruce almighty: jim carrey types furiously, grimacing

I want to circle back and talk a bit about writing The Murano Glass Slipper, because almost nothing about that process has made it onto the blog. That is, of course, because I’ve been busy actually writing instead of just talking about writing. I don’t think the causation there is what it sounds like – that is, I don’t think I’ve been getting more writing done because I’ve been talking about it less. I’ve just had less to say about it (and been less keen to focus on something else) because it’s been going relatively well.

I remember thinking, towards the end of writing The Rose and the Mask, that I had learned a lot that would help me to make a better, more efficient job of writing the next book. I’ve been surprised by how true that was. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many drafts TRatM went through, and most of them were complete do-overs rather than refinements of the drafts that went before them. MGS went through three drafts. The first one was about 50,000 words, written in just a few weeks thanks to the plan I forced myself to make. The second one was a refinement of the first, but I more or less abandoned it at around 25,000 words when I decided, reluctantly, that I needed to make some big-ish changes to the plot to strengthen the motivation of one of the main characters. The final one refined what I could keep from the first and second drafts while adding the new scenes that were necessary to make this new plot idea work. I also had to spend a lot of time writing transitions between scenes, which is something I tend to skip over at first.

Obviously, I could stand to skip the “writing 25k of a new draft and then scrapping it to change the plot” part of this, but I’m delighted that that only happened once instead of over and over again like it did last time. Learning to plan, even imperfectly, has changed my life! I definitely want – and need – to get better at it. It would be nice to be able to anticipate problems like weak character motivation before finding myself 25k into a limp draft. And I’ve also discovered what seems to be a natural weakness for me around three-quarters of the way through a plot, where the end is in sight but I can’t figure out how to get there in a suitably tension-building way. But I’ve come a long way already, and that’s pretty cool.

Another thing that seems to have happened is that I’ve let go of the idea of writing as something I do for fun. Again, this is kind of a shame. Writing was an incredibly important hobby for me during my teens and my time at university and I got a lot out of it – making friends in the fanfiction community, building a skill that I felt good about, and just generally losing myself in imagining characters and stories. But I have always wanted to be a professional writer, and I’ve always known that eventually I’d have to sacrifice writing-the-hobby in order to be able to take writing-the-job seriously.

This hasn’t been a smooth transition (let me refer you to the THREE WHOLE YEARS thing again) but I finally feel like I’m finding the right balance. Some bits of writing are fun. For example, with MGS, I really enjoyed thinking of ways to twist the Cinderella story, and coming up with two characters who are completely different to Faustina and Benedetto in TRatM but still (hopefully) likeable and interesting. And some scenes (like this one that I shared a while back) are genuinely enjoyable to write, and flow out of me pretty painlessly. I also (despite the aforementioned squirminess) really like having written. Completing a big writing project feels awesome. But part of the reason that finishing feels awesome is that actually doing it takes a lot of work. Not just cherrypicking fun scenes to write. Not just playing with ideas and characters. Sitting down at the computer for hours on end, even when you don’t feel like it, even when you’re bored and tired and not exactly fizzing with inspiration for how you can fix a really tedious plot hole you’ve just discovered. Work. And this time, I really just did the work. I let myself feel bored and tired and uninspired and then I told myself, “So what? Get back to work.”

I feel nervous about this. Even though I know most of it was wasted time (at least in terms of producing stuff), part of me is worried that I actually need three years to write a half-decent book and that nothing I did this quickly can possibly be any good. But my anxiety has cried wolf too many times now, and I know I have to push past it to get anything done. Maybe that’s what “trust the process” means, although that’s hard for me because I don’t feel like I have a process yet. And, like I said above, it’s not like I’m going to keep rushing it out if it turns out that the editing process needs a little more time than I planned for.

 

Thanks for reading this mammoth post. I guess after such a big gap I wanted to make sure I was offering value! And thanks for coming with me on this writing journey. It’s nice to have your company 🙂

the title "the murano glass slipper" against a blue watercolour background


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First peek – The Murano Glass Slipper

Today I’m excited to share one of my favourite scenes from The Murano Glass Slipper: A Cinderella retelling, the sequel to to The Rose and the Mask and my permanent answer to the question “what are you doing tonight?” Of course, it hasn’t passed the eagle eyes of my lovely editor yet, but I hope you enjoy it 🙂

the title "the murano glass slipper" against a blue watercolour background

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Scrooge McDuck diving into a pile of gold coins


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All that glitters

Hey, you guys, remember how one of my goals for this year was to write 52 blog posts, which I changed from specifically one per week last year because I thought it would be more achievable?

Please join me in ROFLing vigorously.

a llama rolling around on the ground

source: Giphy

I don’t feel too bad about it, because I think there’s an argument to be made that last year I was kind of using blogging as an excuse to procrastinate on writing my book. (As in “Gosh, I’d just LOVE to do the work I’ve been avoiding all day by finding pointless things to do around the house, but I’ve got a blog post to write! Too bad, so sad.”) But I really do enjoy blogging and the regular posts were finally starting to give this blog some momentum, so it kind of sucks to have lost that.

HOWEVER. I am here now. HELLO! HOW ARE YOU? THE YELLING IS BECAUSE I’M EXCITED TO BE HERE. And also because I have LEARNED SOMETHING ABOUT WRITING!

Okay, so the last time I updated you guys about The Murano Glass Slipper, I was working on expanding the 50k draft I wrote shockingly fast into one that was longer and made more sense. About a week and a half ago I was 25k into that second draft and… well, hating every second of it, basically. Which was really disappointing after how exciting the first draft was. But then I had what I think is a bit of a breakthrough.

Basically, I think I’m too afraid of deleting scenes. I have this idea that written words are Precious and Must Be Preserved because Writing Is Hard. With the MGS draft I was working on (as with lots of drafts of The Rose and the Mask), I found that I was expending a lot of effort to try and prop up parts of the story that… actually weren’t that good. I was working on this one scene in particular and just found myself thinking “This is SO. BORING.” My character was in a scene and she had no real motivation to do anything (relatable, but not great storytelling). And the thing is, I had ideas for what would give her that motivation, but I kept kicking them away because they’d involve rewriting other scenes.

But then, I thought: “Tory, you wrote all 50,000 of those words in a month. Maybe not all of them are solid gold.”

Scrooge McDuck diving into a pile of gold coins

Pictured: not my writing source: Giphy

This is a very sensible thought, and probably one you have already had several times while reading this. But I’d never looked at it that way before. My approach so far has been to cheerfully write a scene at a reasonable pace, and then spend endless, weary, miserable months trying to wedge it into a scrambled mess of a manuscript until my will is finally broken and I delete it – and painlessly write another one. It has only now occurred to me that I can just skip that middle section altogether.

So, am I starting again from scratch? No. There are several scenes from the first draft that I really love, and that are worth polishing up for the final version. And there are plenty more that will be replaced by very similar scenes – scenes that will be easier to write because I’ve written these first scenes. The plan now is to write another 50,000 words in the next month. I’m hoping that, combined with the parts of the first draft I want to keep, this will get me most of the way there! I definitely want this book published by the end of the year, and I’m even hopeful about getting it out sometime in the autumn.

I’m feeling good about this, I think. I’ve got a brand new scene-by-scene plan that blows the old plan out of the water, and that should help keep me going. I’m not certain I can do 50k in a month again, because I’m not feeling that nervous energy that forced me onwards last time – plus, last time I had a few days off work, which really helped, whereas this time I’m actually going to be super-busy at work and probably really tired when I get home. But I’m excited to give it my best shot anyway. Watch this space!

the disneyland paris castle at sunset


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Hey Tory, where have you been?

Thanks for asking.

Well, in a physical sense, I was just in Disneyland Paris for almost a week. It was awesome and I am suuuuuuuper tired. Here’s a few random photos from my phone. There are probably better ones!

the disneyland paris castle at sunset

me on the teacup ride

me and carl in raincoats

Mostly the weather was great, but briefly it really, really wasn’t

a man elaborately carves characters from aladdin into watermelons

This guy is almost certainly better at melons than you

I also bought this truly excellent souvenir:

a real clock shaped like cogsworth from beauty and the beast

The pendulum actually swings!

 

Of course, a few days in Disneyland doesn’t really explain why I haven’t updated my blog in over a month. But that’s good news, I think: I’ve actually been really busy with The Murano Glass Slipper, which seems to be going pretty well! I’ve definitely hit a few snags and, now that I’m trying to refine what I’ve written it doesn’t feel like I’ve been as productive as it did when I wrote 50k words in under a month, but it’s still pretty exciting. Hopefully I’ll have something new to share with you soon. For now, I think I need a nap…


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That’s it, I’m burning my pants.

Time for a status update!

 

The Rose and the Mask is doing… pretty great, actually. I mean, not by, like, industry standards. I won’t be troubling the bestseller lists, and I’m still not in any danger of earning any sort of wage for the time I spent on it. But, well, what I said back when I was setting goals for 2017 was that I wasn’t going to make any regarding sales because they’d probably be dismal and I wouldn’t make back the money I spent on editing and marketing. I’m excited to announce that the book is now in profit! (Or will be at the end of May, which is when I’ll start actually receiving ebook royalties.)

Obviously this is what I hoped for, but I was not sure at all that it would happen, so this is great!

Even better than that, though, is that readers have been contacting me to say how much they’ve enjoyed the book, which is just AMAZING. As you’ll know if you’ve been following this blog for a while, I basically spent 2014-16 screaming “THIS BOOK IS TRASH AND SO AM I” into an unfeeling void, so hearing from total strangers that they liked it feels wonderful.

Overall, I’m really pleased with how this went. Of course, I’m also worried that this is the best things will ever get and it’s all downhill from here, but I’m hoping to reach a point where ridiculous, overblown anxiety is just sort of background noise to me and I’m still able to get on with things 😛

a photograph of the paperback version of the rose and the mask

Speaking of getting on with things, you might be wondering why the title of this post refers to pants, and specifically the burning thereof. This is to do with The Murano Glass Slipper, which is the Cinderella retelling sequel to The Rose and the Mask.

About a year into writing TRatM (with, though I didn’t know it, another two years of writing it ahead of me), I decided that I was Not Allowed to start writing another book until I had a full, detailed plan in place. Up until then, I’d always thought of myself as a “pantser”, which is a term some writers use to describe someone who writes without a plan, i.e. “by the seat of their pants”. I thought making a plan would be impossibly tedious, and take all the fun out of writing. I thought what kept me writing was my desire to “find out”, organically, what would happen next. I think this came from writing fanfiction, which I used to do one ~1500 word chapter at a time, as the whim took me. This was a lot of fun, although I think it’s worth noting that I started about five times as many fanfiction stories as I finished, because I wrote myself into a lot of corners.

However, with TRatM, it just wasn’t fun anymore. I’d invested so much time in it that not finishing didn’t seem like an option – and neither did throwing away tens of thousands of carefully-arranged words to dig myself out of a plot hole. Of course, in the end, that’s exactly what I had to do (more than once, actually), but not before I’d wasted a lot of time feeling crappy about it and trying to come up with another solution.

So, this time, with The Murano Glass Slipper, I’m working from a scene-by-scene plan. And… it’s going pretty well, in that I’ve written 40,000 words in three weeks. That’s half the word count I’m shooting for.

screenshot from Scrivener showing a half-full progress bar towards an 80k word count

This is faster than I’ve ever written anything in my life. This is NaNoWriMo speed, which I’ve always thought was unattainable for me. Frankly, I’m having a bit of trouble believing it, and am wondering if I just spaced out and pasted, like, half of TRatM in there or something.

I mean, there are a bunch of caveats to this. Firstly, since this is my first time plotting a novel before writing it, I don’t think I did a very good job. It starts veeerrrry sloooooooowly, so I’m probably going to end up cutting out or heavily rewriting a lot of the early scenes. And all of this writing is incredibly rough. I’ve been concentrating hard on just getting words down, so I haven’t been back to fix anything, and I’ve left a lot of things like “[???]” where I need to do some research and “[stuck]” where I couldn’t be bothered to figure out what should happen between one part of a scene and another and just left it. Honestly, I’m a bit nervous about going back and looking at what I’ve written, because I don’t think it’s going to feel very good.

However, even taking all of that into account, if I can get all the way to the end of the book at this pace, or even close to it (I’ve had a few days off work, so it’s unlikely I’ll be quite this fast in the next few weeks), that will be pretty amazing. Working from a finished draft, no matter how crappy, is so much easier than trying to find the words to fill a blank screen. And, honestly, I don’t miss that feeling of “finding out” what’s going to happen at all. There’s still been plenty to figure out about my characters’ personalities, how they talk to one another – and that’s the stuff I really like doing. I can’t believe I resisted plotting for this long. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being a “pantser” – certainly not for writing of this length.

Feel free to remind me I said all of this in a couple of months’ time, when I’m complaining about how hard rewriting my terrible first draft is 😛