THE PASSION STROLL...
a blog by author Ashavan Doyon
Disclaimer: This post is political. Writing doesn't happen in a vacuum. I live in the real world, and that world affects my writing. If you have a problem with political content in books, you obviously have never read mine, because I write gay romance, and by and large, that's political by default.
I haven’t been loud in my activism this week. I know the value of being quiet and listening when an oppressed community is hurt. But I also know that quiet activism is sometimes seen as silence.
The core message in my community growing up, struggling with an epidemic that was killing people like me, was Silence=Death.
For many Black Americans, for many communities of color in all its diversity, that message, I’m sure, has a different meaning that is no less profound than the one I grew up with. Because our silence is killing them.
As a nation, we have used our power and privilege to downplay and gaslight and sow doubt into the very idea that the pillar of our society, our concept of justice and order and law is and has been tarnished and corrupted from the start. We see that now in the brutality on the streets towards nonviolent protesters, towards journalists, towards children.
Just weeks ago, police were able to ignore almost any provocation from heavily armed protesters who objected to stay at home orders.
Now they react with brutality towards the people they’re meant to serve.
A man was executed on the street by a vigilante wearing a uniform of service. And the good men who are supposed to step in and prove the system works and that all cops aren’t bad cops? They watched and did nothing. And this isn’t an isolated case. The list of names goes on, and in terrifying ways. A young man jogging. A woman asleep in her bed.
People are angry. I am angry. I want to believe this is not my country, that this is some new infection, but the reality is, I’m afraid, that racism is an old disease, the kind that takes root and refuses to go away. The kind that has to be cut out and removed in ways that will be painful and will take a long time to heal.
In times like this, it would be good to have a president. Someone who could lead and drive a process for reform and healing in an already tumultuous time.
What we have is an infantile coward who insists on pouring gasoline on flames so that he can play with the lives of our troops and our people as if they were toy soldiers.
The brutality we’re witnessing can never be allowed to be acceptable. It can never be ignored. It can never be forgotten.
This is what America has become. Our country is on fire, and I am weeping.
Black Lives Matter.
I have been avoiding social media, when I can.
Oh, I know—I don't really watch the news, so how else do I expect to know what's going on? It's a conundrum. One I don't have great answers for. My own health requires that I limit my exposure to the negativity, and yet, to remain a good, involved citizen, I need to know what's going on.
But every time I look and find out, I wish I hadn't. It feels like I turn on the TV, or look on Facebook, or Twitter, and then it begins...
The thing about the spiral—it isn't just about news. It's about the drama that seems to endlessly infect the gay romance community. It's about the little bits of hatred people are willing to spew that even a year or two ago they would have been horrified to have come out of their mouths or to put into type on a screen. It's about the people you thought you knew, friends and family and colleagues, who have galvanized into a only one way is the right way.
Suddenly the only way to fight Trump is to jump into the skin of their particular brand of liberalism, whether that's fighting for the poor, medicare for all, environmental concerns, or veganism. And if you fail, at all, you're as bad as Trump.
Meanwhile, there's friends and family who were maybe a wee bit conservative, suddenly buying into the propaganda machine that is telling them things about immigration, lying about the human rights debacle being perpetrated on children at the border, pretending taking rights hard fought away is somehow defending religious freedom. And to watch family, especially, buy into that is so hard. It feels like you can't get them back.
And then there's me. And I'm not pure enough for the liberals. I eat meat. I think we police words too much, and I think that gets dangerous really fast. I think a lot of the time a very real liberal elite pretty much screw over a significant portion of the just-hanging-on-but-probably-still-middle-class, if barely. I'm not so attached to any one candidate that I'm afraid to vote blue come November.
To me, it's as simple as this: There can be no more judicial deconstruction of the rights I've spent a lifetime fighting for. And if Trump wins again, I honestly believe I'm looking at a short life in a death camp.
And circling... and circling...
And this is why I avoid the news. And social media is a toss up, because I need it, especially right now, to maintain connections, but it is soooo hard.
I write love stories. Angsty, to be sure. And people sometimes ask me why.
Sometimes when we're hurt, when we're injured, when we're full of angst. That's when we most need to know that people like us can find love. That happy endings exist.
So maybe, just maybe, we can escape the black hole.
And maybe, just maybe, that escape will be powerful, and beautiful, and not alone.
I'm not going to belabor what has been going on at Dreamspinner Press. For eight years, they've been partners in this writing adventure, and for the majority of that time, they were the shining gem of partners in this genre. I hope Dreamspinner can pull themselves back from their current predicament, and do the right thing for their authors. In fact, I am confident that they are making every effort to do so. As an author who has lost contracts to failing magazines, and struggled to regain rights to books when I waited too long to request the rights back from publishers, I couldn't take the risk this time. The books at risk included Gerry’s Lion—of all my writing, it is my husband's favorite. Also at risk was my cherished Chessmaster Chronicles collection, including my very first published work, The King’s Mate.
My books were at the end of their contract cycles. This made the decision to request the rights back both easy, and difficult. In the end, I made the request. Despite reports that I've heard to the contrary, I can speak only to my experience here, and the rights were promptly released, and the books promptly taken down (at least as far as I can tell so far).
As a result, there are a number of missing covers, and some missing purchase links, on my website today. I will be working to get these reformatted, and at least some of them will be re-released through Purple Horn Press. I'm so sorry that for now none of you will know the joy that Gerry felt, bringing Leo with him to the Easter egg hunt. But maybe by the Fourth of July, you can experience a different joy with him...
So I’ve been a bit depressed. You can probably tell, because I’m playing with food. When I write food and meals and making meals is often important. I think that’s because in a relationship you spend so much of your time actually together eating. Because even in a relationship everyone is busy. There are always errands and laundry and mowing the lawn and shoveling snow and a million other things. But when you eat, often, you have a moment to slow down, to be together. And there’s often good relationship memories there, because a lot of relationships begin with a date. And what is that date?
Coffee? Lunch? Dinner? So, often, even when it includes something else it’s a meal.
The experiment was a chicken bacon ranch lasagna. It was fantastic.
What good (or bad!) food experiments has a date or a partner tried out on you? Let me know in the comments!
I posted something on the Facebook feed a little while after it happened, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, I wasn't able to make that effort transfer here. As some of you may already know, my husband and I have had the company these many years of two pugs. Piggy passed some years ago, just shy of the venerable age of fourteen. It was a long life for a pug, and yet Piggy was my writing mascot, and there was a degree to which I never quite recovered.
It should come as no shock then, that the loss of our grand old dame of a pug, the Lady Dulcinea, who passed in May at the extreme old age of seventeen and a half, has thrown me for a bit of a loop. With everything else going on in the world, it was already hard for me to write... this was too much to bear.
Walking around the house without our beloved fur children proved too much for my husband and I. We engaged in the search, and finding a responsible rescue, put in a request for adoption.
I'm not sure a puppy is exactly more work than our dear departed Dulcy, who at the end of her life needed assistance with pretty much everything. But a puppy requires a very different sort of attention, and we've been running ourselves ragged with house training and attempts to save kitchen cushions.
This is all for the good. Our new pup is a wonderful cuddler who, even now, is nestled against me as I type. This bodes well for a faithful writing companion for me. I know when the work is done to get him trained and able to wander the house, it will be well worth it. But right now, endless puppy walks, play, saving household furnishings, and trying to figure out what the cause of the latest cacophony of barking might be have been as effective at destroying a daily word count effort as the other contributing factors.
I hope to be back writing soon. I have the Christmas story to finish up, and I want that edited and released this year.
Perhaps prophetically, Dulcy was already memorialized in that, as the lovable elderly pug Lilah.
... which was obviously my first mistake.
I'm a big guy. I wasn't always. As a kid, I was big for my age but small for the larger kids I tended to be around, always a bit of a squirt. I love my brother, but he could be a bit of a bully as a kid, though the kind that would still protect a younger brother from everyone else.
He wasn't always around though, and when he wasn't, I didn't have a good time. A lot of that was my weight, which resulted in my closest friends forming a "pull down pants" committee to jokingly show off my overly robust and naked ass to the school. This lasted for weeks until my parents finally got wind of it and confronted the other parents.
I was in 4th grade and not even particularly heavy at the time, but it stuck with me. I was fortunate that for most of my youth my frame—both tall and broad shouldered—did the work of minimizing my weight.
Mental health or healthy weight
In college I did the usual college things, and my weight went up. But I still had the remarkable frame, and it held up well. Until I got my diagnosis. I went through cocktail after cocktail of meds to stabilize my moods. I don't blame the doctors, really. I was in crisis and that's what I needed at the time.
But when you jump 80 pounds in two months right after getting put on a new medication, I don't think you can chalk that up to laziness. I had gone up over 100 pounds by the time the doctor pulled me off the medication. Now I wasn't in the mid 200s anymore. I was well over 300. Sure, I kept from gaining more, mostly, but the weight wouldn't come off, and eventually a sedentary lifestyle and a deskjob took a toll. I crept up, year after painful year.
Now hold on! Yes, I dieted. I tried expanding my food options, unsuccessfully. I tried the Atkins diet, among others. Over and over I tried and failed until I maxed out my scale and destroyed my body losing the weight.
Over the last 15 years that weight has slowly crept back up, until this morning I stared at 398 pounds on the scale.
I tortured my body losing that weight. I'm not sure I can do it again. Since I started creeping back up, my body has resisted all the old strategies that worked.
Obviously, the website is changing a bit. Most of the changes are minor and meant to move to a responsive template that better reflects the reality that many of us no longer consume the internet on a desktop computer anymore. The old template was okay, but some of the screens struggled, and it was beginning to look dated. So, we have a new template. I hope folks like it, because these redesigns are a PITA. And not the good kind.
Old mutterings haunting...
I've been mulling lately whether to return to an old story that I started a couple of times some years ago. Like most of my attempts at fantasy romance it went nowhere, and yet still stirs something when I read it. I never got a great response from The One That Feels, and I'll admit that makes me hesitant, both for this story and another--Lost—that is nearly complete. But there's that stirring thing, and that's not to be let go of lightly. Here's a snippet. Interested? Let me know in the comments.
Lost in an ocean of feeling that wasn't touch and vision, that wasn't sight and hearing, that was felt more than heard, Allen slept, and dreamed and screamed. Yes, of that he was certain, the screaming. And slowly, gradually, the vision became something seen, and the touch was of a hand in his and of the touch of his skin against an other, and he could hear voices and music and the thump thump of the heart that was not his and the fierce growl of something inhuman. Of a creature.
My husband and I ventured out to some old stomping grounds tonight. It's not that they're far away, though it seems it sometimes. I went to both high school and college near where we live, but off the beaten path enough that we seldom end up there.
But tonight we happened by The Pub. For both of us this is a place with special meaning. Twice over, really. Twenty-four years ago I went on my first date with my husband at The Pub. And when, after a long gap in our relationship, we got back together, this time for good, it was a date at The Pub that got us going again.
I'd love to say that was the only reason. But The Pub is actually the closest decent restaurant to my old campus, so I had several first dates there. Not all of them were good. As a gay man growing up in the 80s and 90s, though, those dates were important. They represented a bit of normalcy for me, in a world that didn't feel very normal. I often write about a first date with my characters. It's often a dinner.
I'm usually thinking about The Pub when I write those scenes, and of a time when I was feeling very nervous meeting a man for dinner before going to a movie. Sometimes I wonder if I missed out on dating as a teen. Sometimes I wonder if it was different for teens, if it's really different now.
Don't miss Ashavan's story Gerry's Lion, on sale in paperback at Dreamspinner Press until noon on Feb 7.
It's not hard to tell that the College Rose Romances are my baby. College stories that draw deeply from my personal experience as a gay student, gay leader, and a part of a student college gay community for over a decade. When Torquere closed, it hit me hard.
I was lucky. I got my rights back. But now I had four books with no home.
Over the past year, with the creation of Purple Horn Press, each of those books has gone back online as an ebook available for purchase. From Loving Aidan—my first accepted piece of gay romance fiction, to Becoming Rory, the last of a series of romances that I hope has stirred the hearts of readers, the books are available again at last.
Now that all four are out, Purple Horn Press has started to release paperback versions. I'm over the moon, of course. The delays in the Becoming Rory paperback were my first personal sign that Torquere was failing. I spent much of the following two years certain that it would never come out in paperback. Now, I'm pleased to say, those fears have been quashed.
Why Becoming Rory first? Part of it is exactly that... my own fears about the paperback. But there are also many readers who invested in paperbacks from Torquere for the series and were never able to get that final book. This is for them. Even though I favor cream paper and matte covers, the paperback for Becoming Rory is a glossy 5 x 8 book that matches the size of the original Torquere paperbacks.
So What's Next?
Now that Becoming Rory is out and available, Purple Horn Press will be releasing the original three books in paperback releases. Loving Aidan in July, Steven's Heart in August, Andrew's Prayer in September.
By offering the books exclusively through Amazon, we're going to keep the price down to about ten bucks for each of those three books. Obviously most books we can't do that with, but this is a special case, with books that were previously released in paperback. By making the early books available at a very low cost, I hope some folks may be willing to get paperbacks who previously had not, some may complete their collection, and others may find the story an entry point to gay romance.
If all goes well, shortly after that we'll see the release of Forgiving James, College Rose Romances Book 5. I love redemption stories, so I'm really pleased to bring you that complicated story of love, faith, and conflict.
Pride month is hard. It's a good month in some ways. Several of my books were released in June: The King's Mate, The Byte of Betrayal, Becoming Rory. But it's also a time of struggle. Two years ago Orlando happened. While I'm heartened that the Parkland students have been able to affect change, it's sobering what that means... 49 lives meant very little when they were gay lives, minority lives—less than lives. I knew someone in Pulse that night. Someone who didn't walk out. And having grown up in an era when clubs like Pulse were everything, our very sense of community, it still strikes me hard in my soul.
So Pride month is hard.
But it's worth celebrating. So I'm celebrating love, and I'm celebrating PRIDE and I'm showcasing some of my favorite novellas that I wrote and published with Dreamspinner Press. I'd love to say there's a sale, but there's not—just good solid short fiction of the gay boy gets gay boy variety. Take a look.
Celebrate PRIDE. Celebrate love.
Writer of the mysterious, fantastic, and the romantic. Sometimes sappy. Often angsty. Always searching for the sexy. Stories about men who love men.