THE PASSION STROLL...
a blog by author Ashavan Doyon
Titles Coming Down
Having gone through this before, I can't express how painful it is to watch my books slowly disappear from one site after another.
As of today, my College Rose Romances are the holdout and are still available. I expect them to go this weekend.
I know I've done this before. It's still hard for my heart to see it.
This year has been hard fought. And that's saying something after the last few we've been through. The day job is a struggle in a way I'd long thought had been left behind. COVID remains a constant worry. My mom's husband passed suddenly, and though it was after long illness, the adjustment has been difficult. I broke my back in a fall on the ice in the early days of March. The struggle just to do ordinary things has been ceaseless and painful.
Add to that feelings of failure: at my job, in my writing, in my hopes for recovery. The costs to keep the doors open at Purple Horn Press have simply gotten too high, and that means a likely move to straight out self-publishing if I even put my books back out at all.
I think writing those words hurts almost as much as breaking my back.
Life is full of lessons. The hard part is figuring out what it was I was supposed to learn.
I'm still not sure.
Apparently, Violet is back at her old antics changing prices at the Purple Horn Press store! If you've ever considered picking up one of my College Rose Romances, this is a great time to invest in Loving Aidan for only $2.99!
Already have it? The rest of the series is also on sale.
New Year, New Plan
This has not been a good couple years.
My creativity and heart for writing has been sorely fragmented. Between the market for gay romances, current trends, politics, the onset of COVID-19 my sometimes fragile mood stability has been anything but steady.
Even now, as I sit, vaccinated and boosted, I am watching the numbers for my state climb over one million cases—in a state with less than seven million people. Those are official numbers, certainly low, and sobering in the extreme. While there remains some possibility that I had an early COVID infection, I also live in New England, where that lingering upper respiratory condition could have been many other things. Our state closed down early and relatively completely, and my job at the college was made fully remote until this past fall.
Vaccinated, boosted and employed. I know that all sounds good. But it doesn't reflect the mental state carried forward. My job got harder, and left less quiet time for the voices of my characters to speak. My writing suffered, withered, and quit almost entirely for most of two years. I managed, with difficulty, to pull off my traditional November novel in both years, but I would not call the results of that novel writing effort good.
So, now it is 2022. Over that time, while I recovered rights to stories from one of my publishers, I only rereleased one—The Byte of Betrayal, in March of 2021—and that leaves me in the precarious state of having released only one story last year... and nothing new.
I'm going to try to fix that. In the coming weeks I will rerelease the two remaining short novellas that are not part of a series: The Colors of Romance and I Almost Let You. If that goes well, I will also get Gerry’s Lion, a personal favorite, rereleased, hopefully by summer. As for new? Forgiving James is finally about ready for release. I have no illusions that anyone in the current climate is going to be thrilled with me for releasing a redemption story about a bully, but it was a difficult story for me to write, and James turned into such a brilliant character in the end that he made me cry. So it’s coming out, before the end of the year.
I may do more, but even that, two novels and two novellas, is a big lift for me right now. So we’ll have to see.
Wish me luck!
Black Lives Matter
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.
Falling into a Black Hole
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.
Some Important Changes
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...
Experimenting with Food
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!
The Long Quiet—a Pugless Writer
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.
Writer of the mysterious, fantastic, and the romantic. Sometimes sappy. Often angsty. Always searching for the sexy. Stories about men who love men.