THE PASSION STROLL...
a blog by author Ashavan Doyon
... 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.
I get some flack sometimes for portraying parents harshly. Sometimes it's both parents, sometimes just one, but usually a character has someone in their family who just is not that supportive person that we all hope to have;; coming out.
Romances are fantasy, but when we write about a community there's a responsibility to be true to the heart. And part of that is that the relationship with parents, especially with coming out, is complex. There's a whole range of reactions, and that should be represented.
But on Mother's Day, really I want to look at a story where the mothers are front and center—which means looking at Andrew's Prayer.
I love this story because the women who shape Drew are really incredible examples of how important the relationship with a mom can be. It's curious, I think, that Andrew's Prayer starts with an outed Drew returning home, knowing his mom has found out that he's gay. The second paragraph of the story says this:
Coming home hadn’t been a difficult choice. Sure, it was over a thousand miles. Sure, it was going to be hot, sticky, and miserable. It was still home. His mom was the only person in his life who’d said “I love you” that he had believed. She’d even said it after she found out. She’d been in tears, she’d screamed. But she’d still said “I love you,” and Drew never doubted for a moment that she’d meant it.
Throughout the book, the relationship with his mom is so important, but Drew is established as a character who doesn't really believe in love. Except that he knows his mom loves him. He knows it so much that he goes home, knowing, expecting that she won't accept him.
But she's the one who immediately confronts him with what's important.
“What about love? Andy, my precious baby, what about finding someone to love you?”
Drew doesn't believe in love, but throughout the book it is his mom who is there to help him recognize it, to help him find it, and to push him, when he needs it.
Pick up Andrew's Prayer at Purple Horn Press or get it for kindle at Amazon.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mother's out there, and also to all gestational parents, whether they identify as mothers or not.
Looking for a great book but not in the mood for the mom dynamic? May 13 is the last day of Dreamspinner's In and Out of This World Sale... lots of great paranormal and contemporaries on sale. Which includes all of my books with them.
Sometimes when you look back on your life, it's easy to see the crossroads. Places where one turn really mattered. The ones where an angel could have come back and It's a Wonderful Life-ed you.
Eighteen years ago, I had one of those moments. I was thinking about regret and in my life I had two. Both were about relationships that ended in less than stellar ways.
In 1995 I had two miserable breakups. The first was the end to an on-again-off-again disaster. The problem? I was head over heels. People sometimes ask me why I believe in love at first sight stories, and that ex is the reason. We lasted eight months. In the end, he broke up with me. Sadly he didn't even tell me. To say the break up was bad is an understatement.
The second was an older man. I say older, but he was only in his mid-late twenties. It seemed older to me as I wasn't even legal to drink yet. He owned a comic shop halfway between college and my mom's house. We had common interests—a lot of common interests. That summer, while I recovered from the desolate hole in my heart, he slipped into it. We had dinners, went to the movies. He treated me like a prince, but between the distance to school, his work schedule, and a huge unconsolable grief that I wasn't over, it wasn't working. I broke up with him. It was a miserable thing to do. It was also, probably, the right thing at the time.
So, five years later—eighteen years ago—I was graduating and I was thinking about those two very different relationships. The boy I couldn't seem to let go, even though I cursed him every chance I had, and the one I never had a chance to get to know.
I wrote two letters. One was an attempt to bridge that broken relationship with my evil ex. The other an outpouring of regret to the person who I'd never really had a chance to explain why and how and what was going on that I'd chosen to end things.
I tore up the letter to the boy who had ripped my fragile heart to shreds. I sent the one to the man who had always treated me like a prince. Two weeks later we met on a Saturday... Saturday April 29, 2000, and had dinner at the restaurant where we'd had our first date all those years ago. When I graduated in 2001, I moved out of the apartment I shared near the college and moved in with him. We still count that day, today, as our anniversary.
It hasn't always been an easy road.
There was some fractured trust. There was a lot of getting to know one another again. There were dinners and movies and meeting friends and family in a more real and visceral way than we'd ever gotten to in that false start of a beginning.
So many times I think of what I might have missed if I hadn't felt that regret. If I hadn't sent that letter. We started our new relationship with me admitting I'd been an ass. Sometimes I think we still work because when things are hard, I can still admit that.
And sometimes I know it's because for all our faults... my Ron, he still treats me like a prince.
So, what is it like going to a meeting of an LGBTQ+ student group?
With a character like Rory, who has been thrust into a leadership role in one, this was a question I knew we'd see the answer to. Student organizations are often run haphazardly, with partial executive boards, missing officers, and on the drive of what can be only one or two dedicated people.
How do I know?
As a student, I was the political chair of the LBGA, the co-chair of the Disability Action Network, and served on the cabinet of the student government for a student body of 25000 people. I also spent fifteen years of my career in student affairs working with and advising students in exactly those roles.
Smooth operations among the student organizations exist, but usually only for a time, and often—so very often—the load eventually falls on a few.
In Becoming Rory we see Rory struggling in that role. Alone he is trying to pull together a community, and he's got a hard one to manage. Because the religious right can say all they want about the gay agenda... there isn't one gay community. And that's just the GAY community, when we're talking about the LGBTQ+ community. Doing it alone can't be easy. An organization like that should have at least two and probably three other people sharing that responsibility. At my school, the executive board was an eighteen person monstrosity... except that three people were holding down fourteen of those roles.
When I wrote the Queer Alliance meeting, I wanted it to feel right. From the fearless Cian showing up in a skirt to the terrified first year student Ian whose courage was all in just walking through the door, to bisexual Eric who expected showing up and talking about being bi to be easier than it turned out to be. I stood in Rory's shoes. I can't begin to think how many young men like Ian I talked to. How many like Bethany. I hope that it's gotten easier to make them less afraid when the fearless Cian characters walk through the door—they're totally based on a first year student I knew with perfect legs, who, yes, often showed up for meetings in a skirt. And just as often had to run to the meeting because they were chased (in heels) on the way.
They were heady places. Accepting and terrifying and hot... because they were the one place on campus where you might just make a connection. And while that part is less important now (because of the internet), I hope the community and the atmosphere still shines through.
Maybe a kid like Ian will read my story. Maybe they'll realize it doesn't have to be terrifying. And if they do, it'll all be worth it.
Rory Graeble returns to college determined to reinvent himself. Too many years have been wasted with masks, but becoming a student leader is a step Rory isn’t sure he’s ready for. A new identity takes more than just a new nickname, and Rory knows he has to take the chances that his old self would never risk. When that chance is a party that ends with an anonymous hot skater’s tongue down his throat and a phone number in his pocket, Rory knows what he has to do.
Danny Smits never expected to see stuffy lit geek Rory Graeble trying to be out, trying to be proud, trying to be… Rory. It’s damned sexy, and too much for the entrepreneurial skater to resist. When Rory calls him back the day after the party, Danny knows Rory has changed. But will Danny’s haunted past deter Rory? Or will Rory embrace the chance to experience everything the closet had stolen away? Danny believes in keeping things real, in a brutal honesty he knows means Rory will run screaming.
But this time Rory isn’t running.
Published by Purple Horn Press (only $3.99 until the end of April!)
Becoming Rory is also available from Amazon
The Tendire Gate is obviously a departure from most of my published works. Unlike the contemporaries of the Sam's Cafe Romances at Dreamspinner or my angst-ridden College Rose Romances, The Tendire Gate explores unfamiliar territory.
I spent most of my youth writing fantasy and science fiction. My first piece of writing was a one page Smurfs fan fiction typed out as a small child on my mom's portable typewriter. But years of rejection slips and frustration as I wrote novel after novel and accumulated rejection after rejection beat me down.
Eventually I rejuvenated my writing. I looked long and hard at what was missing or I'd been asked to change. Realizing what it was, I got so angry that I walked away.
I was being told to write to market. But while some people meant it innocently, so many more meant writing straight. For a long time I barely wrote anything, keeping my writing muscles exercised only during National Writing Month. Memories of an Imperfect Ghost. Zeriphas and the Bones of the World. The closest to what I write now was probably a novel titled Silent Voices. But while there were fantasy aspects to many of those stories, and even to new ones, Like The One That Feels that I've featured over the past year as a serial on this very blog, they weren't marketable.
When I sat down to write The Tendire Gate, all I had was the cover. The art for the gate struck me hard, and I started this story with frantic creative energy in the cover and the word gate.
It's still not very marketable. Stories where the couple isn't meeting and falling in love are always a harder sell. And maybe that story, where Elijah and Dylan meet, will still get told. But right now, I wanted to tell a story the felt visceral to me. A story about a world collapsing. About wanting desperately to find a way out. About a corrupt government on a witch hunt.
I was left with a story about a keeper. A lone young man whose great love waited on the other side of a gate. And he could go, right now, this instant and be with that man, that love, and be safe.
Except for his duty.
Join us now, at Station Ten—DIRE.
It feels kind of strange to be here. Certainly it was never as consistent as I would have liked, but here we are, and I'm about to hit publish on the final chapter and epilogue of The One That Feels.
I'm thrilled to have Nem out there in the world, because even though this story is told through Thommas's eyes, in truth, it's really about finding Nem, about loving Nem, about how we can hold on to an old love, only to find that the new love waiting for us is our truth.
It's no surprise that this chapter is all about wrapping things up, about Thommas surrendering to being a part of Nem forever. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you've had fun reading along. While I've had my doubts at times, I know there are some of you who have been reading, and if you have questions, now is the time. Comments are open, feel free to ask and I'll get back to any questions people have... well, almost any questions!
In the meantime, if you're behind, or were afraid to start until the story was complete, you can still read the story from the beginning.
Nem spun in my arms as we moved around the dance floor. I preferred the frenetic exultation of joy that dancing was in the Real, but Nem’s incessant smile as we circled the ballroom in measured exacting steps was so bright and wide and full of happiness that I could not bring myself to pull us from the floor. If he wanted to dance, we would dance.
I spun Nem away and pulled him back to me, circled in my arms. It was a practiced move, but once he was in my arms he stayed there, curling his head into my chest. His hand reached to my neck, and I shuddered as it grazed the bruises where he’d marked me. “You’re ready to go, aren’t you?” he asked.
“I haven’t been one to dance till midnight in a long time,” I said, kissing his cheek. “But I’m content. You’re happy. I like making you happy.”
He grinned at me, pulling back enough that he could run a finger down my chest. The other couples on the floor glared, adjusting their spins to avoid us. But Nem paid them no mind. His attention was on me—on the little gasps I was making as his finger skipped over the very low cut of my clothing and onto the cloth. “I’m wearing something special,” he said, his finger catching on the waistband of my pants.
Writer of the mysterious, fantastic, and the romantic. Sometimes sappy. Often angsty. Always searching for the sexy. Stories about men who love men.