Today’s guest, Tali Spencer, talks about sprouts and her new book.
Reviews and Brussels Sprouts
Thanks, Kim, for allowing me to visit your blog. Though I hope to introduce people to my latest book, Dangerous Beauty, I’m going to first talk about the tender ground between writers and readers.
Like many writers, I really hope people will like me. I mean, like my books. My books and me. But mostly me.
But there you have it: the reason why writers are so easily wounded. So many of us—especially the brand new writers—haven’t learned how to separate our books from our egos. We tend to take criticism to heart, at least until we become jaded or so successful as to be able to smile and say, “You don’t like it? Sorry about that. Now excuse me, I have to make a deposit at the bank.” Sadly, many writers never see much in the way of money. Many of us do eventually become jaded, however, which is kind of sad.
One of the most difficult things for a new writer to handle is a negative review. The review doesn’t have to be especially mean (though some are) or intentionally hurtful (also happens). This isn’t about those. This is about regular reviews. All a review has to do is say the book wasn’t their cup of tea or they didn’t want to finish it, and next thing you know a tender writer somewhere is sniffling. And that’s unfortunate, because the reviewer meant no harm. What helps in these cases is a little perspective.
When I get a review like that I think of Brussels sprouts.
Here’s the way I look at it—Brussels sprouts are a perfectly fine vegetable. They have an interesting history and may have been cultivated in ancient Rome. They’re easy to grow. They are loaded with vitamins and fiber and are so good for human health they’re constantly featured as a must-eat food in health magazines. They even protect against colon cancer. What’s not to love? Legions of people swear by them and think they’re delicious.
Oh, I’ve tried to like Brussels sprouts. I’ve tried for decades. They’re cute enough if properly prepared, but there’s just something about the way they smell and I have yet to like how they taste. A dear departed Italian-American aunt made them in a way she guaranteed would be mouth-watering and I could barely gag them down. She was crushed. But it wasn’t her fault. Brussels sprouts are just not the vegetable for me.
Similarly, some books are not for me. I buy a lot of books in my favorite genres. But sometimes in a book I have every intention of liking there’s a way a character is developed or a plot unfolds that strikes a wrong note and I start disliking the book. It happens. I don’t pick up books intending to find fault. I want to like them, but sometimes I just don’t.
It all comes down to personal likes and dislikes, and there are so many of those the possibilities are endless. No matter how wonderful the book or its author, no matter how flawed or triumphant, somewhere there’s a reader who will wrinkle their nose and mumble, “Brussels sprouts.” Oh, they may not say those very words, but the response is there. There’s no helping it.
That’s why when my husband is reading my reviews (so I don’t have to, bless him), he will sometimes give me a little frown and say, “Brussels sprouts.” I know exactly what he means. And while I feel a twinge of disappointment—much, as I suspect, a Brussels sprout might if it could feel anything at all about my opinion—that’s because I genuinely hope every reader will appreciate my work. But I’m realistic. Not every reader will.
Sometimes, wonderful as it is, my book is a reader’s Brussels sprout.
Here’s a blurb and excerpt from my latest book, Dangerous Beauty.
Once the Kordeun family ruled Sebboy…now they are imperial captives of the Uttoran Emperor. Devout and studious, Endre Kordeun loves his family and will do anything to free them, even if that means pretending he’s gay so he can pass messages to his father’s shady allies. With his golden good looks and a beautiful male courtesan posing as his lover, Endre finds Uttor’s decadent society more than willing to believe his ruse.
But when a passionate kiss from a dark, gorgeous man unlocks feelings Endre had been hiding even from himself, lies start to unravel. Arshad, prince of Tabar, is Endre’s match in every way…including a shared love for science and celestial mechanics. Going forward with his charade will be dangerous, and not only because he might be discovered. In that event, even his own father would kill him. How much is Endre willing to risk for love?
Arshad stared. What was this beautiful, dangerous young man saying? Endre looked different somehow, more controlled, yet his perfect features conveyed the same vulnerability and resentment that had marked every public appearance, from the emperor’s triumph to yesterday’s hunt. Whatever had caught the young man in its coils was far from over. And yet he was here, not with his family. Returning books. Settling his affairs. Arshad’s heart pumped cold blood.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Asking your help. And not just with the books. I am asking you to help me. I…I came here hoping to learn something about myself before…before I lose nerve or never meet another man I would consider.”
“What are you talking about, princeling?”
“Sex. I want to experience sex with another man. Maybe just once. I don’t know where it will lead. I mean, I might not even like it. But I am drawn to you, and—”
“You want this?” What a remarkable statement of purpose. Arshad had never had a man come to him in quite this way.
“You’ve made it clear you would like to have sex with me. I…I would like that, too. I don’t need a seduction. Any time we’re in a room together, I can’t stop looking at you, or thinking about what that would be like. You’re everything—brilliant, strong, handsome. You invade my dreams whether I’m asleep or awake. I just…want to try.”
Arshad laid aside Foerdrat’s volume. Endre offered an intellectual proposal. Not quite impersonal and certainly one he might consider. There was an aesthetic appeal inherent in fucking so beautiful a man. For many men, it would be enough. “Is that all you want, firefly?” he murmured, lifting his head to study Endre’s features. The youth’s expression showed no trace at all of hesitation. “An experiment? I am not Yanni, not a courtesan. I am not available simply to satisfy your curiosity. I will be quite selfish about my urges and what I wish to take from you, or give.”
Those aquamarine eyes met his with turbulent longing. “If you see anything worth taking in me, take it. The way you did in the garden.”
He inhaled deeply. What Endre suggested went to the heart of his desire. He wanted to do more than just take Endre—he wanted to open him up, release the dams and drink from the river. He ached to confront this man’s sexual demons and do battle. And he yearned to do so even knowing he might not win. Though his cock stirred with excitement, he needed to be careful. Despite what he’d just said, Endre was probably only superficially aware of having a submissive nature. Part of what so terrified him about being with a man was his own hunger to give over control.
“What I did in the garden was but a prelude. If I agree to take you, Endre, I need to know this is what you want, that you truly wish for me to take your body in all the ways that please me. I will not hurt you, but I will be demanding.” He moved nearer, fully aware of his effect. From the moment they had first seen each other, their bodies had experienced this sexual undertow.
“I need this, Arshad.”
Thanks for allowing me to visit, Kim! I’ll leave some links for anyone who wishes to contact me. I’m pretty easy to find. My blog: http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.com/
My Amazon.com author page.
My Goodreads author page.
I’m on Facebook
And my email: email@example.com
5 thoughts on “Please welcome Tali Spencer!”
Oh Tali! That looks fabulous!! I am going to have to get this! And soon. Can’t wait. 😀
I love how you put the comparison of reviews. I’m going to have to tell my husband that one so he can come up with a similar phrase for me – probably not “brussel sprouts” (Though I am with you on those, I still haven’t found a good way to eat them), but perhaps “lima beans” since both he and I hate them.
I’ve grown friendlier to lima beans, but can totally see them on a par with Brussels sprouts. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Grace.
I laughed at reading this, Brussel sprouts? Really? How delightful. 🙂 I like the reviews from people who don’t like the book, and take the time to say why – I guess it does wound my pride a bit, but I also try to learn from it. Look, I’ve been yelled at by judges, threatened with being locked up, spit on by the family of criminals I locked up, been called names, even got stabbed once and have the scar to prove it – all as part of my work. Negative reviews – please. If any of these ‘tough guys/gals’ wanna come tell me to my face, then we’ll talk. But you’re right, a writer has to say thanks and move on.
Brussel sprouts? Wow delightful.
PS – got one book ahead of you, but Endre’s story is next or next to next 🙂
I appreciate (though don’t generally enjoy) reviews from people who find fault with my books. It’s always good to know what triggers their responses. Most reviewers who leave negative reviews are respectful and I can’t even get upset about how they feel. Why would I? But yes, the legal system is far harsher, as is being in the public eye, as I have been. After you’ve been publicly ripped by pros, you learn to depend on a strong sense of self. 😀
Thanks for being reader, Andy!
Thanks for visiting! When bad reviews get me down, I go read reviews of books I *know* are excellent–and sure enough, there are always complainers. Helps me keep things in perspective.
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