The Opposite of Popular

The online home of alleged author Victoria Leybourne

belle and the beast dance in a room full of candles


I saw Beauty and the Beast and I have THOUGHTS


Guys, I am so serious, if you haven’t seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie yet and you think spoilers might, well, spoil it for you, DO NOT READ THIS POST. I do not want that on my conscience. I’m going to count to five and then I want you gone, okay? Ready?






the cartoon Beast yells at belle to get out of the west wing


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Better than I expected, not as good as I hoped…

Honestly, this sums up a lot of things in my life! But of course, as usual, I’m talking about The Rose and the Mask – specifically, its first week as an actual, real-life published book!

So, how has that first week been? Well…

Expectation: my kind and supportive friends and family would buy it, and almost no one else.


dr evil from austin powers

Alright, I guess I was a little more restrained than that, but I had all these little scenarios in my head that were, um, less than realistic.

Reality: Okay, well, I probably won’t keep posting the figures (mostly because it’ll get embarrassing and a little sad sooner or later) but here’s how they’re looking right now.

Paperback sales: 21

Ebook sales: 36

Kindle Unlimited Page Reads: 15,187 (equal to about 37 full read-throughs of the book)

(For those of you not in the know: Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service where people pay monthly and can read as many KU-enrolled books as they want – sort of like Netflix for books. Authors/publishers get paid based on how many pages were read. You don’t find out how many people read how much of a book, though, so that 15,000ish could be 37 full reads or it could be 150 people reading 100 pages each, or anything else.)

I definitely don’t have 21+36+37 friends and relations. Not even close. Sooo… expectation exceeded. And honestly, I’m really pleased! And so grateful to the people that bought and/or read it! But… well, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll know that I’m never proud of anything I do when there’s the option to feel bad about not doing it better instead. 🙄

But, onwards and upwards! Here’s what I’ve got going on at the moment… you know, besides endlessly refreshing the sales stats.

  • I made a Twitter thread suggesting some better ways they could have introduced a gay character in the new Beauty and the Beast movie, in response to the somewhat underwhelming revelation about Lefou.
  • I’ve put together a tentative plan for getting The Murano Glass Slipper – the sequel to The Rose and the Mask – written, and maybe even published, by the end of the year. That’s VERY ambitious, given that The Rose and the Mask took three years, but I feel like I learned a lot from that process. Mostly, that I should NEVER EVER EVER NOT EVER start writing a book without working out a scene-by-scene plan first. So I’m working on that at the moment. It’s going… okay? I think?
  • There are SO MANY blog posts I want to write. Some about writing The Rose and the Mask, some about the self-publishing process. Hopefully once the nervous excitement about the book being published wears off, I’ll be able to concentrate a bit better. Or at least stop wasting time agonising over the stupid stats! Please feel free to tut disapprovingly at me if you don’t see any of those posts soon. I deserve it.


The Rose and the Mask: A Beauty and the Beast Retelling IS NOW AVAILABLE!

OMG, you guys. I’m so nervous. My book is OUT THERE. People are going to BUY IT (hopefully) and READ IT (hopefully) and REVIEW IT (yay but also *incomprehensible panicked squeaking*).

I’ll be back later with more news for you but right now I need to take a break from feverishly checking things and have several large cups of tea. In the meantime, if you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, here are some links that may interest you!


Faustina is a beauty and a thief, not necessarily in that order. She doesn’t believe in magic, just luck, and hers has run out. The last thing she needs is to get roped into a ridiculous revenge plot by her brother—especially when that brother is Giacomo Casanova, Venice’s most notorious libertine.

Benedetto Bellini has never been particularly lucky. The fact that he’s under a beastly curse proves that. Now he’s got a second problem, one that’s washed up on his island in its undergarments and attempted to steal his silverware. He finds Faustina intriguing and infuriating in equal measure. And, thanks to the curse, he’s stuck with her.

Faustina doesn’t know what to make of the sweet, shy and deeply irritating man holding her captive. Does he have something sinister in mind, or is he just trying to keep her safe? And why won’t he take off his mask?

Available in paperback and ebook editions from:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon ES | Amazon IT | Amazon NL | Amazon MX | Amazon IN | Amazon JP

a water colour mask on a background of a watercolour painting of a galaxy, with gold text

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So I freed myself from the obligation to write a post a week and then failed to post at all for over three weeks. I’m sure you’re all shocked. Shocked.

The good news is that I wasn’t just catching up on Netflix and sneezing, although that adequately describes the weekend I’ve just had. (Remember this post about how comprehensively I fail to cope with the common cold? It was exactly like that.) I also DID MY SECOND EDITS! Actually, now that I look at my last post, I see that I hadn’t quite finished the big First Edits then, so, uh, I finished those first! But then, a couple of weeks later, also the second ones!

And then the Best Editor Ever (TM) took a look at them with me, and we hashed out a few final details, and now… THE BOOK IS DONE! AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

Oh! Oh! Oh! I also re-named it. Again. Yeah, I know, I didn’t even let you recover from the first shock before laying that second one on you. Your minds must be blown.

While I’m starting to think that I might be a maybe-kinda-sorta-okay writer, I yield to no one on the subject of my crappiness as a a… titler? Titelist? Titleatrix? (Probably not titleatrix.) I’m really, really bad at titling things. And I certainly wasn’t attached to “Venetian Masks”, it was just the best I’d been able to come up with after taking an alarming nearly-three-years to think about it. Ideally a title should be a) clever and intriguing and b) attractive to your target readers, and “Venetian Masks” was pretty “meh” on both fronts. When my editor suggested changing it, I decided to learn from those years of failure and give up on a) (I honestly believe I could write another bloody novel before thinking of a clever title for this one) and focus my efforts on b). And I decided to go with The Rose and the Mask. Final answer.

a water colour mask on a background of a watercolour painting of a galaxy, with gold text

It’s not very clever but, as a fan of Beauty and the Beast retellings, if I heard of a book called The Rose and the Mask I would at least check it out to see if it was BatB-related. (Or possibly The Phantom of the Opera-related, but I’d guess there’s an overlap between those fandoms.) And that’s pretty much exactly the effect I’m going for. So, The Rose and the Mask it is!

I’m so excited to have got to this stage, because there were oh-so-many times when I thought I wouldn’t. As for what’s next… well, to give you the short version, there are some pre-release marketing activities I want to try, and a lot of very complicated formatting things to do that will probably make me invent some new swearwords. (For the long version, stay tuned – I’m going to share my To Do list and some detailed posts about the self-publishing process in future posts.)

And then… publication! I’m 95% sure when the release date will be, but don’t want to share it here until I’m 100%. It’ll be early March, though, so stand ye ready! (Oh, and do feel free to join my mailing list over on the book’s website! :D)


2016 Week Forty-Six: Oops

Somehow after 46 weeks to get into the habit I managed to forget to make a post this week? But it’s still kiiiinda Sunday… not in my time zone, but some… I’m gonna say that counts.

I feel like I haven’t done much this week. Work was busy. I saw the light at the end of the waiting-for-payday tunnel and did some Christmas shopping. I also bought myself this:

selfie with a plastic cup in the shape of Chip from the 1991 Disney Beauty and the Beast

Today I put make-up on my face. I’m not nearly organised enough to put on full make-up before leaving the house for a day of work or ACTIVITIES, but I enjoy playing with it, so I pretty much just put it on when I’m not doing anything and then sit around the house in it. Today I made myself look vaguely villainous:


Which I was fine with. It’s good to know how to make yourself into an evil queen if necessary.

I also discovered that magic mirrors are not a good selfie medium:

a picture of my reflection in a handheld mirror. my phone takes up most of it!

Shut up, of course I own a magic mirror.

me with the handheld mirror

See you “next” week!


belle and the beast dance in a room full of candles


The new Beauty and the Beast trailer: ANALYSED!


Okay, full disclosure before we get into this: Beauty and the Beast – both the fairytale in general and the Disney movie in particular – has been my main fandom since I was 14. That’s 11 years, if you’re keeping score. I’ve written fanfiction. I own a collection of novelisations and movie adaptations. (I’m also gearing up to publish my own novelisation, as you’ll know if you’ve been anywhere near this blog before!) I thinned out my collection of Disney merchandise a while back and I still have, like, ten Disney Store Beauty and the Beast mugs. I’m a fan, is what I’m saying. So this is probably not going to be the most accessible reaction to this trailer that you’ll see.

All right, you’ve been warned. Let’s do this.

0:15 – Scratched portrait! Of a child!

screencap from the 2016 trailer. portrait of a man, woman and child in regal clothes. several scratches across the child's face.

As anyone who’s memorised the entire movie and applied maths to it will know (wait, is that not a normal thing to do?), despite the portrait of the prince looking like this in the cartoon…

screencap from the 1991 movie, a portrait of a young (teenage to early 20s?) prince

… subtracting the “ten years we’ve been rusting” bemoaned by Lumiere in ‘Be Our Guest’ from the “until his twenty-first year” from the Prologue leaves you with a prince who was either ten or eleven when he gets cursed, depending on whether you think “his twenty-first year” means his twentieth birthday or his twenty-first. (I think twentieth, thanks for asking.) (Yes, this is really the sort of thing I have opinions about.) I am excited that Disney has finally also done the maths and can’t wait to see what implications his being cursed so young will have for his character, if any.

0:23 – do I see a father stealing a rose?

2016 trailer: Belle's father picking a white rose

This is a feature of the fairytale that Disney notably did away with: Beauty’s father steals a rose from the Beast’s garden as a gift for her and the Beast threatens to kill him unless Beauty comes to live with him.

Here he is gettin’ his thief on in 1946:

screencap from the 1946 french adaptation of Beauty's father stealing a rose

And in 1987:

screencap of Beauty's father stealing a rose in the 1987 movie adaptation

In the Disney movie, of course, Belle comes to the castle looking for her father and makes that deal herself. I like that, because it gives the character more agency – something I think the team behind the 1991 movie were quite keen on. I’m really interested to see if they’ve changed it back for this one – or if this is just a shot of Maurice and a rose to call back to that aspect of the original, without it actually affecting the plot.

0:38 – I just like how much it looks like Emma Watson is holding a broom or a wand in some of these shots.

screenshot from the trailer, Belle is seen from behind holding some sort of stick

I have to admit to some griping on my part about Emma Watson as Belle, just because she’s so very Hermione to me and I’d have preferred an unknown, but I’m used to the idea now and she does look great in this trailer!

0:45 – and there he is!

screencap of the Beast from the 2016 trailer

Disney kept the design of the Beast under wraps for quite a while. I was disappointed when a few stills got released a week or two ago, because he looked really computer-generated. Not that I was surprised that CGI was involved, obviously, but I don’t think I expected it to be quite as obvious as it is. Some of the older adaptations have done pretty cool things with make-up…

Here’s the Beast/an emotional cat in 1946:

the catlike beast from the 1946 version

And here he is in 1987, auditioning for a boy band:

the beast from the 1987 version points dramatically off-camera

And, of course, here’s the 1991 Disney Beast. I chose this screencap because it’s from the same scene as the one from the trailer, but I’ll admit he’s not looking his best here:

the Beast from the 1991 movie

I guess I sort of hoped they’d be able to build on the earlier live-action adaptations – like, use really good makeup and then perhaps a touch of CGI to achieve what makeup can’t. Maybe I’m wrong, but, in the trailer, he looks completely computer-generated to me, and I feel like that’s going to make it harder for me to get into the romance. I mean, the 1991 cartoon is proof (to me, anyway!) that you can make a romance work between two cartoon characters. And, despite some fairly clunky acting, the fact that you can see the real eyes of the actors in the live-action adaptations I’ve seen lends at least a little realism to the romance in those. But a romance between Emma Watson and a Beast they drew in afterwards? I feel like that’s not going to work for me. I hope I’m wrong, though!

0:53 – Lumiere and Cogsworth!

screencap of lumiere and cogsworth from the trailer

I’ve been sold on Cogsworth’s new look ever since the first pictures were released. Lumiere I’m not so sure about – I think maybe because he looks a little too human? Like, he’s a man turned into a candlestick that’s shaped like a man? I mean, I think what was clever about the objects in the cartoon was how the animators made faces out of things that shouldn’t be faces – like Lumiere’s mouth being the split where his candle head met his metal candle-holder jaw.

lumiere and cogsworth from the 1991 cartoon

I feel like just putting a face on a candlestick is cheating.

Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, though? Two thumbs way up from me!

1:07 – ugh, this movie is disgustingly pretty. I’m getting kind of a Phantom of the Opera vibe from all the candles.

belle and mrs potts walk (well, mrs potts is on a trolley) through a candle-filled hallway

1:08 – but I have a lot of questions about Mrs Potts’ accent. It sounds like someone trying to fake a British accent, only… Emma Thompson is actually British?

mrs potts from the trailer

And also, while I’m being petty… why is her face on the side, not using the spout as a nose like in the cartoon…

mrs potts and chip in the 1991 cartoon

…but Chip’s nose is still a handle?

chip from the trailer. his face is painted on apart from his nose, which is the cup's handle


(No, I’m serious, I really care about these things.)(Please send help.)

1:19 – as we already knew from the posters and stills that have been released, there’s still a magic rose in a glass case. So even if the Beast is going to demand daughters in restitution for the rose Maurice might be going to steal, there’s obviously still a special one:

screencap from the trailer, Belle approaches the glass rose

1:20 – For some reason, I’m really into Luke Evans as Gaston. My early prediction is that he completely steals the movie.

gaston from the trailer

1:23 – Okay, this is new – at least to Disney. Here’s Belle, the Beast and a horse. This was hard to screencap from the trailer but, basically, Belle guides the Beast’s hand onto a horse and then he looks at her with EMOTION in his eyes.

Belle, Beast and the horse seen from above

the beast looking EMOTIONAL

I do not know what is happening here, but I was vividly reminded of Robin McKinley’s Beauty, where Beauty has her horse overcome his fear of the Beast and the Beast overcome his fear of the horse being afraid to make this nice moment happen:

The last step brought us to the bench; and with a gesture half of resignation and half of despair, Greatheart dropped his head till his muzzle touched the Beast’s knee. ‘Merciful God,’ murmured the Beast. Greatheart’s ears shot forwards at the sound of his voice, but he didn’t move.


‘I was fond of horses, once,’ said the Beast; and his words had a distant sound, as if they echoed down a cold corridor of centuries.

And, indeed, of Mercedes Lackey’s The Fire Rose, where Rose (the Beauty) makes basically the same thing happen between Jason (the Beast) and his horse:

Jason ran too, dropping Rose’s hand to sprint to the fence, where he met the horse, caught either side of the halter in his hands, and pulled Sunset’s head down to his chest. The stallion made little rumbling sounds that Rose assumed were noises of happiness and contentment, as Jason rubbed and scratched his head, ears and neck.


Then he turned to her with tears literally standing in his eyes.

“How can I ever thank you?” he asked. “You’ve given me back something I thought I would never have again”

Apparently Beastly HORSEFEELS are A Thing? Does this have roots in some version of the fairytale I’m not familiar with? Because I’m familiar with so many that I’m going to feel pretty stupid if I find out that it does.

1:26 – Belle’s near-tears expression in the library speaks for all of us, I think.

Belle in the library, from the trailer

1:45 – the rapid cuts and my slightly fractious relationship with the Windows snipping tool make it hard to make much out of the last few seconds of the trailer but, uh, here’s the Beast and Gaston squabbling over a stick?

beast and gaston fight on the roof - screencap from the trailer

1:47 – The ballroom scene looks just beautiful – which is a relief, since it’s such a huge focal point for the movie.

belle and the beast dance in a room full of candles

And there you have it!

Overall… I’m excited. I really wasn’t, at first – I went through a lot of “THEY’RE GOING TO RUIN MY FAVOURITE THING!” panics when this was first announced, even while grudgingly admitting that yes, OF COURSE I’m going to see it the SECOND it comes out. The stills and the teaser trailer certainly looked pretty, but it was impossible to make any guesses about the characters or any changes Disney might have made. Now that I’ve seen this, I’m just really looking forward to watching it. My guess is that I’ll love some of the changes they’ve made to the original and hate others – but, I mean, I’ll still have the original. I’ll just have this as well.

That’s all for now. My inner Disney/fairytales geek needs a stiff drink and a lie-down!

Image sources:

Screencaps from the 1991 Disney cartoon from here.

Screencaps from the 1987 Cannon movie and the 1946 Jean Cocteau movie taken from my DVDs while I was livetweeting them.

Screencaps from the trailer for the new Disney version taken from YouTube.

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2016 Week Thirty-Five: [Insert good title]

Well, it’s Saturday and I haven’t been able to think of a good blog topic this week, so it’s going to be another random collection of thoughts and updates.

My new job is going well so far! Everyone’s been nice to me and no one minded that I blu-tacked a Maleficent Lego minifigure to my phone, which is all I really want from a workplace.

I did another live-tweet of a Beauty and the Beast adaptation, but it wasn’t as much fun as the others. Turns out that screenshots from Fairy Tale Police Department: The Beauty and the Beast Bungle are pretty funny on their own, so there wasn’t a lot I could do to add value. For example:

A foppish prince examines Beauty's teeth with a pair of opera glasses while the Beast, pretending to be a painting, looks on. It's as weird as it sounds.


The Storify is here, though, and I think you should check it out.

I fell into a Disney Store and some stuff fell into my basket and then some money fell out of my credit card and, well, basically there was just a lot of retail slapstickery.

A t-shirt with a silhouette of Belle that says "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere", a mug with a picture of the stained glass window of a rose, a glass with cameos of Belle and the Beast on it and a tin of BatB fridge magnets

I’m normally pretty good about resisting impulse buys, or at least impulse buys that are more than a few quid a time, but that pretty much fell apart over this lot. I am really, really enjoying all of it, though, and I totally deserved a new job treat (or four), right?

Writing is going pretty well, on average, I think. I’m down to only a few scenes that aren’t written at all, and a few more that need re-writing or expanding, and the current (final! FINAL!) draft is about 12,000 words shy of the 80,000 word target. My rollercoaster of feelings about my writing seems to be speeding up for this last stretch. I used to go several weeks thinking it was all pretty good, followed by weeks (or months) of hating it (and myself). Now it’s days. I’ll look at it one day and be like “Yay, I am a magical word princess who bends language effortlessly to her will!” and the next be like “Right, that’s it, I’m setting my computer on fire, changing my name and starting a new life on the moon.”

I keep trying to remind myself that most people won’t be reading it as critically as I am – in fact, the only reason anyone would read it the way I read it would be because they hate me and everything I stand for, in which case they’re probably not my audience. In fact, it’s far more likely that hardly anyone will read it at all. But it’s hard. I keep reading it and imagining the criticisms people might make and how I’d wish I’d fixed those problems while I had the chance, i.e. now. But I wish I could imagine the praise people might give the good parts at the same time!

Right, back to work, I guess! See you next week!